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    Apple Issues Report on Government Requests for Customer Data

    Apple has issued a report (company pdf; archivepdf) on the requests it receives from the U.S. and foreign governments for information on its customers, which has implications for these individuals’ privacy rights. Apple says it “prepared this report on the requests we receive from governments seeking information about individual users or devices in the interest of transparency for our customers around the world.” The company notes, “We have reported all the information we are legally allowed to share.” Concerning its collection of user data, Apple says, “We have no interest in amassing personal information about our customers. We protect personal conversations by providing end-to-end encryption over iMessage and FaceTime. We do not store location data, Maps searches, or Siri requests in any identifiable form.”

    Here’s more concerning the types of requests that Apple receives from U.S. and foreign governments:

    Unlike many other companies dealing with requests for customer data from government agencies, Apple’s main business is not about collecting information. As a result, the vast majority of the requests we receive from law enforcement seek information about lost or stolen devices, and are logged as device requests. These types of requests frequently arise when our customers ask the police to assist them with a lost or stolen iPhone, or when law enforcement has recovered a shipment of stolen devices.

    Only a small fraction of the requests that Apple receives seek personal information related to an iTunes, iCloud, or Game Center account. Account-based requests generally involve account holders’ personal data and their use of an online service in which they have an expectation of privacy, such as government requests for customer identifying information, email, stored photographs, or other user content stored online. Apple logs these as account requests.

    We believe it is important to differentiate these categories and report them individually. 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.

    Read the full report to see the table of account requests from various governments.

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