Recent news on the FBI's $1.3 million plus hack into Apple's flagship product got me wondering how many requests Apple gets from governments around the world for its customers' content. This is a subject of some concern given the revelations of Edward Snowden back in 2013 and the ongoing inability of the world's government security apparatus to put a dent in terrorist activities. In its latest transparency report for the period from January 1 to June 30, 2015, Apple reports the following government requests for information on its customer base:
1.) Device requests: The majority of these relate to information about stolen or lost Apple devices and may include customer contact information that was provided to Apple when the device was registered by the owner. Here is a table showing how many law enforcement device requests Apple received in the first half of 2015 by nation:
2.) Account requests: These requests usually involve information about an account holder's iCloud or iTunes account, for example, a name and address. In some cases, Apple is asked to provide the actual content of a customer's iCloud account including emails, documents, photos, contacts and iOS backups. Obviously, these requests are far more invasive and Apple may provide account access when the request is a search warrant. Here is a table showing how many account requests Apple received in the first half of 2015 by nation:
3.) Emergency requests: These requests are made by governments in cases where Apple believes that an "emergency involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person requires such a disclosure without delay". Here is a table showing the number of emergency requests received during the first half of 2015 by nation:
Once again, the United States is in first place with 107 emergency requests followed by the United Kingdom with 98 and Canada with 14.
It is interesting to note that, by a wide margin, Apple is asked to release information by American authorities far more often than other nations, including China which is not exactly known for its shining human rights record. The requests for the private content of Apple's customers should be of great concern to Apple users around the world; with law enforcement around the world finding itself unable to preempt significant terrorist acts, one has to wonder how important this personal information has been in the fight against terrorism and violent non-terrorist attacks.
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