Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Apple, Government Snooping and Your Privacy

 Along with Apple's quarterly earnings data release on January 27, 2014 was the company's "Update on National Security and Law Enforcement Orders".  In this summary that covers the period between January 1, 2013 and June 30, 2013, Apple releases to the public the actually number of requests for information that are related to law enforcement investigations for the United States, data that was not previously available because U.S. laws forbade the release of specific numbers.  This data release includes orders under FISA and National Security Letters or NSLs.  NSL orders do not require a court order but may only be used to get a customer's contact information.  Apple notes that most law enforcement requests relate to criminal investigations including theft, robbery, murder and kidnapping. 

Here is a summary:

National Security Orders Received

 - in the range of zero to 249

Account Information Requests Received

Total Number of Law Enforcement Account Requests - 927

Number of Accounts Specified in the Requests - 2330

Number of Accounts For Which Data Was Disclosed - 747

Number of Account Requests Where Apple Objected - 102

Number of Account Requests Where No Data Was Disclosed - 254

Number of Account Requests Where Non-Content Data Was Disclosed - 601

Total Percentage of Accounts Where Apple Disclosed Some Data - 81 percent

As I noted above, new rules regarding transparency allows Apple to report law enforcement and national security orders in the United States more accurately rather than using bands as in the past.

Just in case you wondered, here is a look at the country-by-country account information requests by country as released in Apple's November 5th, 2013 Report on Government Information Requests, noting that on on that date, Apple was only able to report United States data in bands of 1000:

In closing, Apple notes that:

"We work hard to deliver the most secure hardware and software in the world and we will continue to provide our customers with the best privacy protections available. Personal conversations are protected using end-to-end encryption over iMessage."

I guess that we have to keep all of those government agency snoops busy doing something for their money, don't we?

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