Apple discloses government requests but wants to see more transparency

Tech giant wants gag order lifted so it can reveal more about government information requests

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 8:13pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 3:58am

Apple has finally disclosed the number of information requests it received from governments around the world, making it one of the last big technology companies to do so in the wake of the controversy over data collection by US national security agencies.

In its report, which follows similar disclosures from Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others, Apple signalled its opposition to US government strictures on the type of data it is allowed to report, and called for more transparency in the process.

From January 1 to June 30 this year, Apple said it received between 1,000 and 2,000 account information requests from US law enforcement bodies, affecting between 2,000 and 3,000 Apple accounts. It said it disclosed data on zero to 1,000 accounts.

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

Apple, along with other technology companies, is allowed only to report such US numbers in increments of 1,000 and must combine law enforcement and national security requests, making it impossible to know exactly how many are security-related.

The company registered its opposition to those strictures.

"We feel strongly that the government should lift the gag order and permit companies to disclose complete and accurate numbers regarding FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act) requests and National Security Letters," Apple said in its report.

"We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent."

Apple said that it has never received a request under the controversial Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which gives the government broad electronic surveillance authority, and added that "we would expect to challenge such an order if served on us".

Microsoft, Google and other technology companies are challenging the US Department of Justice's stance on restricting the disclosure of FISA court orders, so far with no success.

Apple said on Tuesday it filed a letter with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court supporting a group of cases requesting greater transparency.

Technology companies are keen to push for, or at least be seen to be pushing for, transparency in their dealings with US intelligence agencies.

Revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have suggested they allowed the NSA direct access to servers containing customer data, an allegation the companies deny.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse