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Apple report discloses information given to governments worldwide

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Apple released a document today to disclose requests for information about customer accounts and devices that the company received from governments and law enforcement agencies worldwide.

Any request for information Apple receives must be accompanied by a court order, according to the Report on Government Information Requests (PDF link). Its legal team then reviews the order and challenges it if deemed appropriate internally. If the legal team is satisfied that the request is "valid and appropriate," then Apple delivers "the narrowest possible set of information responsive to the request."

According to Apple, the "vast majority" of requests pertain to lost or stolen devices, which are classified as "device requests." Information related to iCloud, iTunes or Game Center accounts pertain to individual accountholders and are known as "account requests." The report covers both types of requests. Two tables break down the requests by governments from Australia to Ireland, Russia to Taiwan.

"Apple has prepared this report on the requests we receive from governments seeking information."

The U.S. tops the list of device requests with 3,542 followed by Germany with 2,156 and Singapore with 1,498. Apple points out that those "never include national security-related requests" and are often initiated by users working with law enforcement officials.

The U.S. also tops the list of account information requests with between 1,000 and 2,000, followed by the U.K. with 127 and Spain with 102. According to the document, the U.S. government only allows for a broad disclosure of these types of requests and prohibits Apple from disclosing "the number of national security orders, the number of accounts affected by the orders, or whether content, such as emails, was disclosed." Apple "strongly" opposes the requirement. As such, it intends to file an Amicus brief with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals later this year to "in support of a case seeking greater transparency with respect to National Security Letters."

"We believe that our customers have a right to understand how their personal information is handled, and we consider it our responsibility to provide them with the best privacy protections available," the document explains. "Apple has prepared this report on the requests we receive from governments seeking information about individual users or devices in the interest of transparency for our customers around the world."

According to Apple, the company has "no interest in amassing personal information about our customers," in part because its business "does not depend on collecting personal data."

"We believe that our customers have a right to understand how their personal information is handled."

Privacy concerns have arisen this year over several game-related devices like those Apple develops. After the debut of its "always listening" Kinect peripheral for the Xbox One, Microsoft characterized privacy as a "top priority." For more on the possible privacy implications of next-gen consoles, be sure to read Polygon's latest Gen Next piece, which examines whether the consoles could spy on users.