Apple defends government-mandated gaps in new transparency report

Apple defends government-mandated gaps in new transparency report

Summary: Cupertino wants to make it clear that it opposes Washington's "gag order" about certain national security orders.

SHARE:
zdnet-apple-transparency-report-q3-2013

Once again aiming to distance itself from the federal government in the wake of the constant NSA scandal, Apple has published a new transparency report of its own.

The bottom line is that Cupertino wants to make it clear that it opposes Washington's "gag order" about certain national security orders.

However, before even getting to the usual numbers about data requests from various legal and government agencies by region, Apple has a number of caveats it wants to clear up first.

Here's a snapshot of just a few of them:

  • Apple asserted it has "never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act," adding that it would "challenge such an order" was served.
  • Defending that its business does not depend upon the accumulated personal data of its customers, Apple revealed it does "not store location data, Maps searches, or Siri requests in any identifiable form." (The key word there is "identifiable.")
  • Apple clarified its own definitions between "device requests" and "account requests." Device requests are said to refer to when law enforcement officials are looking for lost and stolen devices. Account requests concern personal information related to an iTunes, iCloud, or Game Center account.
  • And this one is fairly common among most transparency reports: Apple noted that it keeps track of every request received, but not every country in the world is listed due to the fact that Apple might not have received any information requests from said governments.

Apple isn't alone in wanting to clear its name with Internet users worldwide following its implication in the National Security Agency's PRISM program that was unearthed to the public back in June. The iPhone maker was one of nine tech giants cited as sources by the federal organization's secret data mining program.

Much like Yahoo and a few others, Apple reiterated that it has filed a brief with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA Court) in support of greater transparency. Apple is also planning to file a second request with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Northern California, "in support of a case seeking greater transparency with respect to National Security Letters."

With all that said, let's take a closer look at the numbers. Here are the big ones to know from the period covering January 1 to June 30, 2013:

  • The United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Singapore all came up with thousands of device requests each.
  • In the United States alone, there were 3,542 requests involving 8,605 individual lost or stolen devices. Apple responded to 3,110 of these requests with "some data."
  • The U.S. also led with "1,000 to 2,000" account requests. Apple noted that a much slimmer number of requests concern actual account information, also stressing that it can't reveal the exact number on this metric.
  • That said, these requests included questions about anywhere between 2,000 to 3,000 U.S. user accounts. Beyond that, the numbers stateside get fuzzy as Apple only specified that it offered up data about zero to 1,000 accounts.

Screenshot via Apple

Topics: Government US, Apple, Data Management, Legal, Privacy

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

9 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • The fact that people are even trying to blame companies

    for what is a government domestic spying program shows just how effective the government has been in propagandizing the population into thinking the state is actually the helpless pawn of the evil corporation instead of it actually being the other way around.

    I find it laughably absurd that a company, which cannot tax you or jail you is somehow master of a government that could dissolve said company with a stroke of a pen.
    baggins_z
    • You don't know how legislative lobbying works, do you?

      "I find it laughably absurd that a company, which cannot tax you or jail you is somehow master of a government that could dissolve said company with a stroke of a pen." Do a Google search on ALEC, American Legislative Exchange Council. An organization of companies basically writing laws they want passed and then putting enough money behind it to ensure it.
      matthew_maurice
      • You just refuse to get it.

        The government is basically telling those companies: Give us money if you want to stay in business. Because if we can write a law that favors you, we sure as *%&^ write one that puts you out of business.
        baggins_z
        • Get a clue.

          You think the State is supreme? That went out with the NAZI. The state is the tool of corporations not the other way around. The Government is receiving 1.9% tax from Apple you pay higher sales tax than that. If it was pay the Government they would be payed not some 1.9% like Apple or 0% like GE Microsoft is in there somewhere too. Its not the Government the corporations have to pay its super-PAC funds is it not? That is a trivial sum, chump change for a corporation. Kept secret even foreign governments and foreign corporations can play with the pay its why the contributors to the tax free super-PAC must be kept secret.
          Altotus
    • It is Governments plural and corporations plural.

      The companies are much much more intrusive than the Government and Google is just one of the better ones. Your just looking at the white side (corporations and governments) the dark side (not to say some companies are not there) is much more intrusive than any government. There are many many more than the US.
      Altotus
  • Apple grinds some axes here.

    Money quote:"our business does not depend on collecting personal data. We have no interest in amassing personal information about our customers."

    In other words, we make our money selling you high-margin devices you love, not offering you free services to learn everything about you. When the feds come knocking we won't have anything about you to give them (unless you count that you secretly bought that Lady Gaga album), unlike those guys over in Mountain View!
    matthew_maurice
  • FISA Court/Regular Requests

    And breakdown of the USA requests by type of Court Order would be interesting, for example, a breakdown between orders made by an ordinary Court within the USA and the FISA Court. Only reason why I would like to know such a breakdown is due to the fact that the FISA Court has classified hearings that are closed to the public, the orders themselves are classified (they're shown once and not left with the party) and the Government had prevailed in obtaining FISA orders over 99% of the time.
    Conrad Rockenhaus
  • And what started all this in the first place?

    Need to watch the documentary Loose Change 9/11 and 911 in Plane Site. Pretty pathetic.
    TheSaint777
  • what about the backdoor to all users

    They don't report about the backdoor given to ALL users - just the 3,000 official requests Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, AOL NSA BackDoor - has given NSA open Backdoor, Collects personal information, location, monitors activity and conversations http://investigativerep.blogspot.com
    irleaksreporter