Apple: iPhone info requests from Chinese government have exploded

Apple releases information about government requests for user data in the second half of 2018.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The Chinese government made just 689 requests to Apple to access information about Apple devices, but the requests pertain to a massive 137,595 devices – more than seven times the number of devices in US requests and way over half the worldwide total. 

The number of devices Chinese authorities requested access to in the second half of 2018 was a 450% increase in the country's device count in the first half of the year, when authorities made 751 requests for 30,764 devices. 

Apple disclosed the requests and the amount of times it provided data in its transparency report for July to December 2018

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Of the first half 2018 device numbers, Apple said the high number of devices specified in requests from China were "due to insurance fraud and stolen device investigations".

In the second half of 2018, the high number was "predominantly due to tax fraud investigations from taxation administration authorities". 

The company handed over device identifiers, such as a serial number or IMEI number, to Chinese authorities for 96% of the 689 requests.   

US and German authorities have been the second most active in terms of the number of devices they request information about, both totaling just over 19,000. 

In Germany, Apple says the high volume is "predominantly due to stolen devices investigations", while in the US it is "due to stolen device and fraud investigations".

China and the US dominate Apple requests for details about customers' iTunes and accounts, which can include name and address, and in some cases include "stored photos, email, iOS device backups, contacts or calendars".

US authorities made 2,669 requests for 9,924 accounts, while Chinese authorities made 42 requests for 7,154 accounts. In the US, Apple provided actual user content for just under half of the requests, while in China it provided only non-content data.  

Apple says the higher number of accounts specified in requests from China is "predominantly due to financial fraud investigations".

Account requests worldwide have increased steadily over the past five years, from just 3,000 in 2013 to over 9,000 in 2018. 

Apple has also revealed government takedown requests for apps in the App Store. 

Once again, China has been the source of most app takedown requests, filing 56 requests for 626 apps over legal violations. Apple removed 517 apps. 

Worldwide, it received a total of 80 requests concerning 770 apps and it removed 634 of the targeted apps.     

Of Chinese app removals, Apple said the "vast majority relate to illegal gambling or pornography".

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