The report said government bodies in 43 countries requested information about 40,000 Apple accounts or devices

Apple released its first report showing the number of requests it received from government agencies worldwide. 

According to The New York Times, Apple disclosed its first report detailing account information requests from government agencies around the world during the first six months of 2013 (January 1 to June 30). The report said government bodies in 43 countries requested information about 40,000 Apple accounts or devices.

“We believe that our customers have a right to understand how their personal information is handled, and we consider it our responsibility to provide them with the best privacy protections available,” said Apple. “Our business does not depend on collecting personal data. We have no interest in amassing personal information about our customers.”

For the first six months of the year, Apple received between 1,000 and 2,000 account information requests from U.S. law enforcement alone. The Cupertino giant said this affected between 2,000 and 3,000 Apple accounts, but it only disclosed data on zero to 1,000 accounts.

Apple said the most common account requests involved crimes such as robberies and missing person cases, and that responses to such requests involved giving a name and address.

Apple added that a "vast majority" of the requests were regarding devices, where customers ask law enforcement for help finding a lost or stolen iPhone or when police recover stolen devices. Apple received 3,542 device requests in the U.S. for 8,605 devices, and Apple turned over some or all of the desired information 88 percent of the time.

It's important to note that Apple and other tech companies are only allowed to report these numbers in increments of 1,000, and have to combine law enforcement and national security requests together. This makes it harder to know which is which.

The release of this report shows that Apple is onboard with wanting greater transparency when it comes to the use of customer information. It added that it protected personal conversations through end-to-end encryption over iMessage and FaceTime, and that it did not store Siri requests, location data, or Maps searches in an "identifiable form."

Apple is actually one of the last big tech companies to release a report, as Google, Facebook and Microsoft have already done the same. These companies are currently challenging  the U.S. Department of Justice's (DOJ) stance on restricting the disclosure of Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court orders. 

"We feel strongly that the government should lift the gag order and permit companies to disclose complete and accurate numbers regarding FISA requests and National Security Letters," Apple said in its report. "We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent."

Tech companies are pushing for greater transparency after the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) was called out by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year for intrusive spy programs. According to Snowden, the NSA collected data from phones and email in an effort to fight terrorist attacks, but it was discovered that mass amounts of data was harvested first and filtered later, meaning that more data was collected than necessary. The public feared for its privacy after such revelations.

In August, reports said that the NSA admitted to touching 1.6 percent of total globe Web traffic. Its technique was to filter data after harvesting it, which led to over-collection on a major scale. 
Days later, an internal audit showed that the NSA broke the law nearly 3,000 times from 2011 to 2012. More specifically, the May 2012 audit revealed that the NSA had abused its power to either accidentally or intentionally spy on Americans and green card holders 2,997 times in that time period. 
Later in September, The New York Times reported that Snowden revealed just how far the NSA will go to subvert most types of encryption, including court orders, supercomputers, technical stunts and even by working with tech companies to gain back-door access to security methods. 

Earlier this week, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt said that the NSA's alleged spying on data centers is "outrageous" and that its strategies of pulling hundreds of millions of records to find a few hundred is "bad public policy" and even "illegal." His comments came after the NSA had allegedly directly accessed communications used by Google and Yahoo to move massive amounts of email and user info in overseas data centers. 

Check out the full Apple report here [PDF]. 

Source: The New York Times

"This is about the Internet.  Everything on the Internet is encrypted. This is not a BlackBerry-only issue. If they can't deal with the Internet, they should shut it off." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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