Apple received government requests on 9K-10K accounts

Faith Merino · June 17, 2013 · Short URL:

Apple says that FaceTime and iMessage content are not affected

Shortly after Facebook and Microsoft both disclosed government requests for data last weekend, Apple followed suit. The company issued a statement Sunday night revealing that between December 2012 and May 2013, it has received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests for customer data from U.S. law enforcement. Apple estimates that about 9,000 to 10,000 accounts were specified in those requests.

Interestingly, Apple notes that the most common request is not “which of your customers are terrorists?” (which was my first assumption), but rather requests from police investigating crimes like robberies, searching for missing children and Alzheimer’s patients, or trying to prevent a suicide.

Apple doesn’t say what types of data have been collected, other than to say that it does not include communication via FaceTime or iMessage, both of which are encrypted, so only the sender and receiver can see the conversation. Additionally, Apple doesn’t store data related to customers’ location, Map searches, or Siri requests.

Which makes you wonder what types of data are actually being collected… Safari searches? App Store searches? Do the feds know that I still have the Contraction Master app that I downloaded when I was in labor with my son a year and a half ago? Do they know I downloaded the MapMyRun app to lose weight (but have not yet used the app)?

Apple could not be reached for comment, but reasserted in its statement that it had never heard of the PRISM program prior to being named as a complicit business two weeks ago.

“We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order,” Apple said in a statement. “Regardless of the circumstances, our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it.”

Apple’s iTunes music store now boasts over 575 million users, and iCloud now has 300 million accounts.

Last Friday, Facebook revealed that it received between 9,000 and 10,000 government requests for information on some 18,000 to 19,000 accounts. That translates to about 0.0009% of Facebook’s 1.1 billion users.

Late Friday night, Microsoft revealed that it received between 6,000 and 7,000 government requests for information, affecting between 31,000 and 32,000 accounts. 


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