US government tops Apple customer data request list

The US government tops the list of governments requesting customer data from Apple, according to the firm’s latest transparency report

The US government tops the list of governments requesting customer data from Apple, according to the firm’s latest transparency report.

The report updates figures released by Apple in June, when the company joined other tech firms in publishing data request information after it was linked to the Prism internet surveillance programme.

According to Apple’s latest report, the US government made between 1,000 and 2,000 requests in the six months leading up to 30 June.

The firm said the US requests affected 2,000 to 3,000 accounts, but said the number of accounts for which data was disclosed ranged between zero and 1,000.

Apple did not reveal the precise number of requests made by the US government, where some data was disclosed, but noted that the report disclosed all the information allowed by law.

Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft have all called on the US government to allow them to publish greater detail about requests they receive to hand over user data.

They are objecting to US government prohibitions on disclosing details of the number of national security orders they receive, the number of accounts affected by the orders, or whether content, such as emails, is disclosed.

US government agencies can demand data from private companies under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) with a national security letter (NSL), which prohibits public disclosure by the companies supplying the information.

However, Apple said the most common "requests involve robberies and other crimes or requests from law enforcement officers searching for missing persons".

The report said this usually involves disclosing information about an account holder's iTunes or iCloud account "such as a name and an address".

"In very rare cases, we are asked to provide stored photos or email. We consider these requests very carefully and only provide account content in extremely limited circumstances," the report said.  

The UK was second on the list, with 127 requests, folowed by Spain (102), Germany (92), Australia (74) and France (71).

Apple said it had filed a letter with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court supporting a group of cases requesting greater transparency.

"We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent,” the company said.

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