US government requested information on nearly 5,200 Apple accounts in past 6 months

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2016
In its latest report on government requests for user information released Monday, Apple revealed U.S. law enforcement agencies lodged 1,015 requests for customer account information affecting 5,192 users in the second half of 2015.




The figures highlight Apple's biannual Report on Government Information Requests (PDF link), which covers all domestic and international requests for device and account information, as well as national security requests, received during the six-month span from July to December of 2015.

Account requests are perhaps most relevant to recent events, specifically Apple's high-profile court battles with the Department of Justice over privileged access to encrypted iPhones. As defined by Apple, account requests usually entail the disclosure of information relating to a user's iTunes or iCloud, such as a name and address, but in other cases can include iCloud content like photos, email, iOS device backups, documents, contacts, calendars and bookmarks.

As it pertains to the 5,192 individual accounts affected by U.S. law enforcement requests, Apple handed over data for 4,411 individual accounts. Apple disclosed non-content data from 509 accounts, while "some" content was disclosed for 322 accounts. The company furnished information for 82 percent of all U.S. account requests, objecting to 116 specific cases. By comparison, Apple provided data for 81 percent of the 971 requests covering 2,727 accounts received in the first half of 2015

Interestingly, China filed 32 requests seeking information related to 6,724 accounts, up from 24 requests affecting 85 accounts half a year earlier. Apple said the massive increase in per-account requests was predominantly related to phishing investigations.

Moving to device requests, which call on Apple to provide information about lost or stolen devices, the company reports receiving 4,000 separate filings from U.S. agencies pertaining to 16,112 devices, as counted by individual serial number of IMEI. Apple complied with 80 percent of these requests. The numbers compare to 3,824 requests impacting 9,717 devices in the first half of 2015.

Apple reported that it received between 1,250 and 1,499 national security orders, including those associated with FISA and National Security Letters, to release the account information of between 1,000 and 1,249 customers. The U.S. government restricts public availability of security orders to bands of 250. As in past years, no orders for bulk data were received.

Finally, Apple was issued a total of 178 worldwide emergency requests for information that may include the contents of communications and customer records. Apple furnishes such information in the event that an emergency involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to a person requires its disclosure. Of the 178 requests received, 108 originated in the U.S.

Apple's transparency report comes amidst a debate over consumer device encryption. In a controversial move, Apple rejected FBI demands to assist in accessing a passcode-locked iPhone 5c used by San Bernardino terror suspect Syed Rizwan Farook. The Justice Department filed an All Writs Act motion to compel, but the company resisted, arguing that millions of iOS devices would be imperiled if it were made to create a working exploit. Federal prosecutors withdrew the case just one day prior to an initial evidentiary hearing, saying FBI investigators were able to access Farook's data through alternative means of access presented by an unnamed third party.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 15
    Germany 11,989 requests!!! What the hell is going there?
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 2 of 15
    @UnitedWorx: As this number is in the table relating primarily to lost or stolen devices, I'd guess that standard police procedure in at least some Germany states is to request activation information from Apple whenever an iPhone is reported missing — and that this is not true of many countries. Interestingly, tiny, rich next-door Luxembourg, with a population of only 500,000 or so against Germany's 80 million, has a yet higher rate of requests per head. Maybe iPhones are easier for the light-fingered to find there. Or the population's more forgetful.
    cali
  • Reply 3 of 15
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    edited April 2016 SpamSandwichlostkiwi
  • Reply 4 of 15
    singularitysingularity Posts: 1,328member
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    Do you expect that info from an Apple report?
  • Reply 5 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    If you wondering about the number just search up Google's Transparency reports. They've reported stats for years, starting in 2009 and well before most of their tech brethren. They've also been in the lead bringing pressure on the government to allow companies to report more specific information about the requests they receive for user data, and finally seeing some success in the past couple of years. 
    edited April 2016 cnocbui
  • Reply 6 of 15
    mike1mike1 Posts: 2,598member
    Considering the installed base of iDevices, that doesn't seem like very many at all. Especially since this includes lost/stolen iPhones.
  • Reply 7 of 15
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    Do you expect that info from an Apple report?
    Commenting on 'the story', not 'the report'.
    Sorry that shot over your head.
    lostkiwi
  • Reply 8 of 15
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member

    gatorguy said:
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    If you wondering about the number just search up Google's Transparency reports. They've reported stats for years, starting in 2009 and well before most of their tech brethren. They've also been in the lead bringing pressure on the government to allow companies to report more specific information about the requests they receive for user data, and finally seeing some success in the past couple of years. 
    Seems like this story would have been a great opportunity for a 'side-by-side' then, huh?
  • Reply 9 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    bobschlob said:

    gatorguy said:
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    If you wondering about the number just search up Google's Transparency reports. They've reported stats for years, starting in 2009 and well before most of their tech brethren. They've also been in the lead bringing pressure on the government to allow companies to report more specific information about the requests they receive for user data, and finally seeing some success in the past couple of years. 
    Seems like this story would have been a great opportunity for a 'side-by-side' then, huh?
    It doesn't always have to revolve around Google does it? Seems a bit silly to feel a need to validate whatever Apple does by comparing it to Google (or Microsoft or whoever).  
    singularity
  • Reply 10 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    bobschlob said:

    gatorguy said:
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    If you wondering about the number just search up Google's Transparency reports. They've reported stats for years, starting in 2009 and well before most of their tech brethren. They've also been in the lead bringing pressure on the government to allow companies to report more specific information about the requests they receive for user data, and finally seeing some success in the past couple of years. 
    Seems like this story would have been a great opportunity for a 'side-by-side' then, huh?
    What would a "side-by-side" tell you? Google has billions of more users than Apple does and in more ways. They also report on things that Apple does not so they'e not actually comparable as such.   In any event I would certainly expect there would be more government/law enforcement requests for user data, wouldn't you?

    If you simply want to have a look-see it's all right here. 
    https://www.google.com/transparencyreport/
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 11 of 15
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    Why would they even request that info?

    That's like asking permission to open a box of cereal.
    lostkiwibobschlob
  • Reply 12 of 15
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 22,828member
    cali said:
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    Why would they even request that info?

    That's like asking permission to open a box of cereal.
    LOL! :)
  • Reply 13 of 15
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member
    gatorguy said:
    bobschlob said:

    Seems like this story would have been a great opportunity for a 'side-by-side' then, huh?
    What would a "side-by-side" tell you? Google has billions of more users than Apple does and in more ways. They also report on things that Apple does not so they'e not actually comparable as such.   In any event I would certainly expect there would be more government/law enforcement requests for user data, wouldn't you?

    If you simply want to have a look-see it's all right here. 
    https://www.google.com/transparencyreport/
    Well look at that; there you go already starting the beginnings of a side-by-side. Not too difficult, huh?
    And in answer to your last question; yes, I would 'expect' that. But that's why it would have been nice to see.
    edited April 2016
  • Reply 14 of 15
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member

    cali said:
    bobschlob said:
    ...As opposed to how many requests on how many google accounts? (or maybe no "request" necessary in those cases?)
    Why would they even request that info?

    That's like asking permission to open a box of cereal.
    Yep. That was my (perhaps, poorly worded) point.
  • Reply 15 of 15
    bobschlobbobschlob Posts: 1,074member

    gatorguy said:
    bobschlob said:

    Seems like this story would have been a great opportunity for a 'side-by-side' then, huh?
    It doesn't always have to revolve around Google does it? Seems a bit silly to feel a need to validate whatever Apple does by comparing it to Google (or Microsoft or whoever).  
    Doesn't revolve around google at all. Google 'rarely' mentioned in this government vs. encryption debate. Focus is always "Apple". Media even uses "iPhone" when speaking about the issue generically. (Like "Kleenex")
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