The U.S. government’s national security requests on Apple data soared during the second half of 2016.
Apple reported in a biannual transparency report released on Tuesday that it received between 5,750 and 5,999 national security orders during the second half of 2016. Apple said that those orders affected between 4,750 and 4,999 user accounts. The U.S. government doesn’t allow companies to divulge the actual number of national security orders they’ve received and instead requires them to provide a range in increments of 250. Apple said in its transparency report that it wants to provide specific numbers, but cannot because of federal regulation.
The U.S. government also bans companies from revealing the full nature of the orders. However, Apple (AAPL) was able to reveal that its national security orders were received under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which allows the government to spy on foreign targets, as well as National Security Letters, which serve as subpoenas on national security matters.
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Apple is among several technology companies—including Google (GOOGL) and Microsoft (MSFT)—that regularly release transparency reports detailing government and law enforcement requests on user data. The companies receive requests from governments around the world for a wide array of reasons and on thousands of accounts. In some cases, when warrants aren’t valid or requests overstep privacy concerns, the companies do not comply with such requests. Companies release regular reports to show trends in data requests.
Apple’s transparency report revealed a staggering uptick in government requests on data. During the first half of 2016, Apple received between 2,750 and 2,999 national security orders, and between 2,000 and 2,249 accounts were affected. The second half of the year saw those figures more than double. The technology giant didn’t say in its report why more government requests were made during the second half of the year.
Aside from the U.S., Apple received hundreds of requests on user account information from other countries around the world. Japanese law enforcement agencies, for instance, requested account information on 115 user accounts. German law enforcement sought information 159 accounts.