Apple's latest transparency report reveals growth in government data requests

Requests for information on devices and accounts continue to grow; but Apple doesn't always agree to hand over the info.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer on

Apple's transparency report for the first half of 2018 reveals a continued rise in the number of government requests for user data. 

Apple released its biannual transparency report on Thursday, which is now available in the traditional PDF format and a newly launched interactive format that's designed to be easier for users to skip to sections of interest to them. 

The new graphical format displays a snapshot of government requests in each country broken down into requests for access to data linked to a device, financial data, account information requests, and emergency requests. Country snapshots are organised alphabetically in a row.    

Worldwide Apple received 32,342 law enforcement requests for access for customer data associated with a specific device in the first half of 2018, up from 29,718 in the second half of 2017. Apple provided user data for 80 percent of those requests, totaling 25,829. 

In line with previous reports, by far the most requests came from Germany, which accounted for 42 percent of the worldwide total. Apple notes that the high volume of requests in Germany were "predominantly due to stolen devices investigations". 

The US was the second highest source of requests at 4,570 during the period, followed by Australia, where law enforcement made 2,357 requests. In the UK, Apple received 572 device requests and 172 emergency requests; in both cases Apple provided data in response to 76 percent of requests. 


Apple's interactive transparency report.


In China Apple only received 751 device requests, but there were 30,764 devices specified in those requests. Apple says the high number of devices specified were mostly due to insurance fraud and stolen device investigations. 

Poland, Finland and South Korea had similar profiles for the same reason. For example, in Poland only 32 requests where 14,060 devices were specified, while in South Korea there were 92 requests spanning 39,423 devices. 

SEE: Apple iOS 12: An insider's guide (free PDF)

The US had by far the highest number of requests by agencies seeking customer data related to financial identifiers, such as credit card and fight. This totaled 918 for the period and was due mainly to "iTunes Gift Card and credit card fraud investigations" and "Reseller fraud, iTunes Gift Card fraud, and financial fraud investigations".     

Apple also recorded 14 requests made under Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties from law enforcement in countries outside of US legal jurisdiction. The company hasn't yet published the number of national security letters due to a requirement to withhold the numbers for six months.  


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