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Apple discloses US government data requests

Apple has published a general outline of government data requests, the last major tech company to do so. Under US law, Apple cannot report how many requests were related to national security investigations.

In the report published on Tuesday, Apple protested a government gag order, which prevents the company from providing customers with a more detailed account of how much personal data it discloses to authorities and for what reasons.

“Despite our extensive efforts in the 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,” Apple wrote in the report.

The company said it received between 1,000 and 2,000 government requests for data between January 1 through June 30 of this year, which affected between 2,000 and 3,000 accounts. Apple said most of the requests were for routine law enforcement investigations, such as robberies and missing persons. But the company is barred from revealing how many of the requests were related to national security.

Under US law, Apple can only reveal the number of cases in which data was actually disclosed in increments of 1,000. Based on that requirement, the company said it turned over data on zero to 1,000 accounts to the government.

“We strongly feel that the government should lift the gag order and permit companies to disclose complete and accurate numbers regarding FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) requests and National Security Letters,” Apple wrote in its report. “We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent.”

Microsoft, Google, and Facebook had already published similar reports in the past. Several tech companies are challenging the US Justice Department's restrictive policy on disclosing government data requests.

Outside the US, Apple received 127 requests in Britain, 102 in Spain, 93 in Germany, 74 in Australia and 71 in France.

slk/jr (AFP, Reuters)