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Government Privacy United States Apple

Apple Issues First Transparency Report 93

Trailrunner7 writes "In a new report (PDF) detailing the number and kind of requests for user information it's gotten from various governments, Apple said it has never received a request for information under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and would likely fight one if it ever came. The company also disclosed that it has received between 1,000 and 2,000 requests for user data from the United States government since January, but it's not clear how many of those requests it complied with because of the restrictions the U.S. government places on how companies can report this data. Right now, companies such as Apple, Google and others that issue so-called transparency reports are only allowed to report the volume of requests they get in increments of 1,000. So Apple's report shows that although it received 1,000-2,000 requests for user data so far in 2013, the number that it complied with is listed as 0-1,000. Apple, along with a number of other companies, including Google and Microsoft, have asked the government in recent months for permission to disclose more specific numbers of requests, including specific numbers of National Security Letters."
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Apple Issues First Transparency Report

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  • It's surprising to me that Apple didn't provide more detail. Others do. Yes, companies are currently not allowed to provide precise data on National Security Letter requests, but for all other sorts of government requests, including warrants and subpoenas, there are no legal restrictions. Google publishes the precise number of requests and the precise number of affected user accounts for those requests, falling back on giving ranges only for the NSLs (it's worth pointing out that it's thank to Google's efforts that anyone can publish any information on NSLs; they're the ones who negotiated the permission to publish ranges). Other companies also publish precise statistics for everything except NSLs.

  • Re:Clear as mud (Score:4, Interesting)

    by alvinrod ( 889928 ) on Tuesday November 05, 2013 @07:58PM (#45341127)

    If a company wanted to provide this information without actually explicitly stating it, couldn't they release a more detailed report of their finances, including business expenses incurred as a part of dealing with these requests. If they accounted for each request as a flat rate, it would be possible to glean the information without breaking any laws about publishing how many requests they received.

    Similarly, they could be taking an interesting approach with regards to Section 215 requests. Legally they're not allowed to even state that they've received any, so the claim that they've given could be a lie. However, if it isn't, if any future reports omit any mention of the number of Section 215 requests, it would be safe to assume that they have received one.

    They're already all really good at finding tax loopholes and dodging around other legal requirements, so I would imagine that even if the government wants to keep this information under wraps that some of these companies will find a way to get that information out.

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