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Privacy group lauds Apple initiatives to protect user data from government requests

Source: EFF

In a privacy report covering major tech companies' policies toward government data requests, digital rights advocate Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) awarded Apple a perfect six-stars after rating the firm in the doldrums for the past three years.

According to the "Who Has Your Back" report published on Thursday, Apple earned credit in all six categories measured by EFF, including requiring warrants for content; informing users about data requests; publishing transparency reports; publishing law enforcement guidelines; fighting for user rights in courts; and fighting for user rights in Congress.

"Apple's rating is particularly striking because it had lagged behind industry competitors in prior years, earning just one star in 2011, 2012, and 2013," the EFF writes. "Apple shows remarkable improvement in its commitments to transparency and privacy."

Aside from the self-explanatory requirement of warrants for user data, the EFF notes that Apple now promises to inform users when the government makes such requests. Law enforcement agencies may force Apple to withhold the information from customers only if a correct court order is furnished.

Apple outlined its legal process guidelines for U.S. law enforcement agencies in a new webpage that went online last week. The publication is also one of the measurements used by the EFF in rating a protective company.

As for fighting in court, the EFF points to Apple's 2014 transparency report:

If there is any question about the legitimacy or scope of the court order, we challenge it and have done so in the past year.

Finally, Apple is a member of the Reform Government Surveillance Coalition, which the EFF says is a sign that the company opposes mass surveillance. According to the coalition's tenets, government policy should allow only targeted data requests that are lawful and made known to the user.