Apple publishes new transparency report detailing govt data requests and App Store removals

Amid its ongoing encryption battle with the FBI, Apple has published its latest biannual transparency report. This report reveals how many requests were made for user data by governments around the world, and how many with which Apple could comply.

This data covers January 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019. Apple is required by Justice Department rules to delay the release of these figures by six months, as noted by TechCrunch’s Zack Whittaker.

During this period, Apple says that governments made 31,778 requests for devices, which up by around 500 compared to the first half of 2018. Those requests covered a total of over 195,000 devices, and Apple says it was able to provide data in 82% of those instances. On a per-country basis, Germany made the most device requests at just over 13,500. The United States made 4,796 requests.

What kind of data did that include? Apple says that law enforcement agencies seek data on which customers are associated with which devices, oftentimes relating to lost and stolen device investigations, as well as fraud investigations. “Device-based requests generally seek details of customers associated with devices or device connections to Apple services,” Apple explains.

In addition to requests for device information, governments also request data for iCloud and iTunes accounts. During this six-month period, Apple says it received 6,480 requests for this type of information. Apple was able to comply with 85% of these requests. The United States led the way here with 3,619.

Here is Apple’s description of these types of account requests:

“Examples of such requests are where law enforcement agencies are working on cases where they suspect an account may have been used unlawfully or in violation of Apple’s terms of service. Account-based requests generally seek details of customers’ iTunes or iCloud accounts, such as a name and address; and in certain instances customers’ iCloud content, such as stored photos, email, iOS device backups, contacts or calendars.”

Apple also provides data on national security-related requests made by the United States under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). For security reasons, it only reports a range for this type of data. Apple says it received between 0 and 499 FISA requests during this period for non-content data relating to transactional and subscriber information.

Apple also says it received between 0 and 499 content requests for data such as photos, email, iOS device backups, contacts or calendars.

Lastly, as Whittaker notes, a record number of users and accounts were affected under FISA requests. A record number of national security letters were also issued by the FBI during this period. These letters are issued without oversight of the courts.

National Security Letters: Federal Bureau of Investigation issued requests for non-content data in national security investigations. Non-content data is data such as subscriber data. Apple does not produce transactional information and connection logs in response to National Security Letters.

As for the App Store, Apple says it received a total of 70 App Store takedown requests during this period for “legal violations.” The majority of these requests came from China, where the government made 56 requests. There were also a total of 25 App Store takedown requests for “platform policy violations,“ again with China leading the way at 22 requests.

You can read Apple’s full transparency report on its website here.

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