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Tuesday, November 05, 2013, 12:36 pm PT (03:36 pm ET)

Apple issues public report detailing government information requests, reveals efforts to increase transparency

Apple Tuesday afternoon issued a public report detailing the number and types of requests it receives from governments around the world for information regarding individual users or devices, while also expressing concerns that the U.S. government prevents it from disclosing more data in the interest of public transparency.

Apple government request report


The new report, titled Report on Government Information Requests, is available in PDF form from Apple's website. The company said it considers it a responsibility to provide its users "the best privacy protections available," and that the report has been filed in the "interest of transparency for our customers around the world."

The report kicks off by assuring customers that their privacy is "a consideration from the earliest stages of design" for all of the company's products. It highlights security solutions such as Find My iPhone and Touch ID as "innovative" offerings that aid in convenience and security.Apple receives far more information requests from the U.S. government than any other government. The company is also prevented from giving exact figures on those requests by the government — a policy Apple has lobbied against.

In a thinly veiled stab at competitor Google, Apple notes that its business model "does not depend on collecting personal data."

"We have no interest in amassing personal information about our customers," the report reads. "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."

The company also revealed that the U.S. government prevents Apple from disclosing the exact number of national security orders, and the number of accounts affected by such orders.

"We strongly oppose this gag order, and Apple has made the case for relief from these restrictions in meetings and discussions with the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the courts," the report states. "Despite our extensive efforts in 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."



In line with these comments, Apple's report includes a chart disclosing the exact number of account information requests it has received from governments across the world, except for the U.S., where such requests are presented in a wide range of numbers. Even within those ranges, the amount of requests from the U.S. government well exceed those of other governments: While Apple has received between 1,000 and 2,000 law enforcement requests in the U.S., the next-closes international government is the U.K. with just 127.

The U..S. government also leads the way in device information requests from Apple, with 3,542 total tracked by the company. That was well ahead of Germany, which came in second with 2,156 requests, while Singapore came in third with 1,498.

Apple was also prompted to make a rare public comment on customer privacy in June of this year in the wake of reports about the U.S. National Security Agency "Prism" surveillance program. Since then, even more information about alleged government spying has come to light.

Apple said back in June that the company has "never heard of Prism," and that the iPhone maker has not provided "any government agency with direct access" to its servers.