Apple Releases its First Transparency Report
On Tuesday Apple provided its first transparency report (pdf) regarding the number of information requests it receives from governments around the world. As with reports from rivals like Google and Microsoft, Apple is under a "gag order" regarding the actual number of local national security orders, thus it can only provide a range of numbers. Apple openly opposes this gag order in the report.
"Apple has made the case for relief from these restrictions in meetings and discussions with the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the courts," the report states. "Despite our extensive efforts in this area, we do not yet have an agreement that we feel adequately addresses our customers’ right to know how often and under what circumstances we provide data to law enforcement agencies."
"We believe that dialogue and advocacy are the most productive way to bring about a change in these policies, rather than filing a lawsuit against the U.S. government," the report adds. "Concurrent with the release of this report, we have filed an Amicus brief at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) in support of a group of cases requesting greater transparency. Later this year, we will file a second Amicus brief at the Ninth Circuit in support of a case seeking greater transparency with respect to National Security Letters."
According to a chart, in the period between January 1 and June 30, the total number of local law enforcement account requests that were received ranged between 1000 and 2000, and the number of accounts specified in the requests ranged from 2000 to 3000. The number of accounts for which data was disclosed were 1000 and less, as was the number of accounts where Apple objected, the number of account requests where non-content data was disclosed, and more.
Outside the United States, the numbers were smaller. For the total number of law enforcement account requests received, the United Kingdom came in second with 127, Spain in third with 102, Germany with 93, Australia with 74, and France with 71. The number of account requests where some content was disclosed was zero across the board save for the United Kingdom with a big one account, and the United States with an even bigger up to 1000.
"Even though device requests have not been the focus of public debate, we are disclosing them to make our report as comprehensive as possible," reads the report. "These may include requests for the customer contact information provided to register a device with Apple or the date the device first used Apple services. We count devices based on the individual serial numbers related to an investigation."
A device chart shows that the United States makes the largest total number of law enforcement device requests with 3542, followed by Germany with 2156 requests, Singapore with 1498 requests, Australia with 1178 requests, and the United Kingdom with 1028 requests. For the United States, the number of devices specified in the requests was 8605, the number of device requests where some data was provided was 3110, and the percentage of device requests where some data was provided was 88 percent.
"We believe it is important to differentiate these categories and report them individually," reads the report. "Device requests and account requests involve very different types of data. Many of the device requests we receive are initiated by our own customers working together with law enforcement. Device requests never include national security–related requests."
To read the full disclosure, read the PDF file here.