Apple Complied With Vast Majority of Data Requests Last Year
Despite Apple’s ongoing legal fight with the U.S. government over unlocking iPhones, the company assisted law enforcement agencies in the vast majority of cases when asked last year.
U.S. law enforcement agencies asked the company to provide iCloud or other account data 1,015 times covering 5,192 accounts in the second half of 2015, according to the company’s latest transparency report released late Monday. The company fulfilled 82% of those requests, generally finding no data to disclose in other cases. Apple objected to 116 requests, or 11% of the total. Apple provided data in 80% of cases and objected to 10% in the second half of 2014.
Apple (AAPL) was also asked to help with 4,000 requests related to 16,112 devices. It was able to provide information in 80% of those cases, just over the 79% it provided in the same period a year earlier. Apple says most of the requests related to lost or stolen devices.
The report covers the period just before the FBI went public with its demands that Apple help unlock an iPhone used by deceased San Bernardino shooter Syed Rizwan Farook. The investigation started almost immediately after the Dec. 2 shooting that killed 14 people, and Apple quickly provided information from Farook’s iCloud account. It was not until February that the FBI convinced a judge to order Apple to help unlock Farook’s work iPhone. Apple appealed that order and the FBI ultimately backed down last month after saying it found a way to unlock the phone without Apple’s help.
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As it has done in its prior transparency reports, Apple emphasized that it only gave out information to law enforcement when it was presented with a search warrant. “When we receive such a demand, our legal team carefully reviews it,” Apple said in the report. “If there’s a question about the legitimacy or scope of the request we challenge it, as we have done as recently as this year. We only comply with information requests once we are satisfied that the request is valid and appropriate, and then we deliver the narrowest possible set of information.”
In terms of requests that related to national security, where Apple is not allowed to provide as much detail, the company said it received between 1,250 and 1,499 requests covering between 1,000 and 1,249 total accounts. An Apple spokesman declined to comment further.
For more on Apple’s case with the FBI, watch:
Apple also said it received requests from other countries, including China. The government of the largest country in the world asked Apple 1,005 times for help with 2,413 devices and 32 times for 6,724 accounts. Apple said it provided at least some data for 66% of the device requests and 53% of the account requests.
In one of its court filings in the Farook case, the FBI criticized Apple’s actions in China, citing press reports that the company could be sharing some data stored there with the government. Apple has called the reports false in its briefs and testimony.