Apple Opens Up About Snooping Requests

apple, snooping surveillance privacy © Dmitry Vinogradov Shutterstock

Better late than never…Apple finally reveals the snooping requests it has received from various governments

Apple has finally joined other tech giants in revealing the number of snooping requests it has received from governments around the world.

The eleventh hour ‘transparency report’ move by Apple makes it one of the last tech titans to reveal such requests, following moves by Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft amongst others.

Snooping or genuine?

In its report on government information requests, Apple revealed its opposition to information requests not only from the US government, but from other governments around the world.
Apple surveillance security magnifying glass © cunaplus Shutterstock “We believe that our customers have a right to understand how their personal information is handled, and we consider it our responsibility to provide them with the best privacy protections available,” said Apple’s report. “Apple has prepared this report on the requests we receive from governments seeking information about individual users or devices in the interest of transparency for our customers around the world.”

Between 1 January this year to 30 June, Apple said that it had received between 1,000 and 2,000 account information requests from US law enforcement authorities, affecting between 2,000 and 3,000 Apple accounts. Apple admitted it disclosed account data between 0 and 1000 times to US authorities.

All tech firms can only report such numbers in increments of 1,000. And tech companies are forced to combine requests from law enforcement bodies such as the police, with the national security requests from spy agencies such as the NSA or Britain’s GCHQ, making it all but impossible to identify the exact number of snooping requests.

The UK meanwhile made 127 law enforcement requests, seeking 141 users’ account information. Apple said it provided data on 51 accounts. Other countries are also involved including Australia (where Apple received 74 requests covering 75, accounts, and handed over 41 users’ details) ), Spain (102, 104, 19) and Italy (60, 76 and 18).

Germany, which has protested fiercely against alleged spying activities by the United States and the United Kingdom, filed 93 user account information requests affecting 93 user accounts, but only got data back on 5 of them.

Tech Protests

Surveillance requests from spying agencies exposed by the leaks of whistleblower Edward Snowden, has prompted a backlash from tech firms. The CEOs of Yahoo and Facebook, Marissa Mayer and Mark Zuckerberg, have spoken out about it.

“Frankly, I think that the government blew it,” Zuckerberg said. “They blew it on communicating the balance of what they were going for with this.”

US President Barack Obama plans to make changes to the NSA’s surveillance programmes but will face serious opposition in Congress.

Apple has this week reportedly filed a letter with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court supporting other tech firms who have also requested greater transparency.

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