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Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

Apple releases government information request report for second half of 2015

Note: This story has not been updated for several years.

While the spotlight has been on Apple’s objection to the government’s request in the San Bernardino case, that’s hardly the only time that Cupertino has been asked by the authorities to provide information on devices or accounts. The company has detailed those requests for the latter half of 2015 in its latest transparency report (PDF).

The company breaks out requests into different types: the most common seems to be requests for device information, which Apple says are predominantly for lost iPhones and the like. The winners there are Germany, which made 11989 requests encompassing 31,360 devices, and Poland, which made just 22 requests…but which covered an eyebrow-raising 56,447 devices–a footnote does say that those were mostly requests from the country’s Customs and Revenue Authorities–so potentially a concern on smuggling phones into the country?

Account requests, where the authorities ask for information stored in, say, iTunes or iCloud accounts, were most prominent here in the U.S., where the government asked for information on 1015 accounts–Apple objected in 116 of those cases, and ultimately provided some data in 82 percent of cases. (In another interesting footnote, Apple mentions that China’s 32 requests for information on 6724 were largely those in phishing-related investigations.)

Finally, there are emergency requests–just 178 worldwide–the ever elusive National Security Orders (somewhere between 1250 and 1499, which is as precise as the company is allowed to be), and account deletion requests: just 3 in that six month period, all of which were honored.

Apple notes upfront that it tries to inform customers when it has complied with a government request “unless we are explicitly prohibited from doing so,” referring to the broad use of gag orders that Microsoft has recently challenged. And, of course, the company notes its ongoing thoroughness and objections when it believes requests are unreasonable. And Apple’s latest report still says that Apple has “to date…not received any orders for bulk data.”

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]

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