Apple Publishes First Transparency Report on Government Information Requests

by Istvan Fekete on November 6, 2013

Apple has published its first ever report on government information requests, in which it details the exact number of account information and data requests both in the US and internationally. The report also emphasizes how restrictive the rules are for Apple in its homeland, as only ranges of 1,000 are represented there.

By making these numbers available to the pubic, Apple has joined other companies such as Yahoo, Dropbox, and LinkedIn in requesting more transparency to be allowed by the government in disclosing requests in the US. What’s interesting in this Amicus brief is that Apple calls out major news outlets for “erroneously” reporting that these companies – Apple included – have participated in NSA’s PRISM program.

The Apple report details the exact FBI letters and requests it had to comply with, and it also highlights what the company would like to see changed.

“This report provides statistics on requests related to customer accounts as well as those related to specific devices. We have reported all the information we are legally allowed to share, and Apple will continue to advocate for greater transparency about the requests we receive,” the report states. “At the time of this report, the U.S. government does not allow Apple to disclose, except in broad ranges, the number of national security orders, the number of accounts affected by the orders, or whether content, such as emails, was disclosed.”

An interesting highlight of the document is that Apple states it has never received a PATRIOT 215 order. The Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act is one of the most controversial sections of US law, as it allows for secret court orders to allow the government to collect data that may be relevant to a government investigation.

Apple’s report states “Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us.”

Some speculate that this is a clever move from Apple, as the report published yesterday is the first in a series of forthcoming reports about the government’s information requests. If the phrase stops appearing in the upcoming transparency reports, this could serve as an indicator that Apple may have been forced to comply with such orders. I would say Apple has published what the company was allowed to make public under the current US law.

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Written by: Istvan Fekete. Follow by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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