Apple has published its latest Transparency Report covering government and private party requests for data from January 1 to June 30, 2020. This report reveals how many requests were made for user data around the world, and how many with which Apple could comply.
As first reported by TechCrunch’s Zack Whittaker, this latest Transparency Report shows a year-over-year decline in requests for data. In the first half of 2020, Apple received 28,276 device requests covering 171,368 devices. Apple was able to to comply with 80% of the requests.
For comparison’s sake, Apple received 31,778 device requests in the first half of 2019, covering 195,577 different devices. Apple was able to comply with 82% of those requests. The company explains what constitutes a government device request:
Examples of such requests are where law enforcement agencies are working on behalf of customers who have requested assistance regarding lost or stolen devices. Additionally, Apple regularly receives multi-device requests related to fraud investigations. Device-based requests generally seek details of customers associated with devices or device connections to Apple services.
One request may contain one or multiple device identifiers. For example, in a case related to the theft of a shipment of devices, law enforcement may seek information related to several device identifiers in a single request. We count the number of devices identified in each request, received from each country/region, and report the total number of devices specified in requests received by country/region.
Apple also says that worldwide government financial identifier requests were down year-over-year. Apple says that these requests generally cover situations where “law enforcement agencies are working on behalf of customers who have requested assistance regarding suspected fraudulent credit card activity used to purchase Apple products or services.”
Apple saw an increase in worldwide government account requests. In the first half of 2020, Apple received 9,872 account requests covering 31,200 accounts. It was able to comply with 85% of those requests. This is up from the 6,480 account requests Apple saw in the first half of 2019, though the number of accounts was down from 37,605.
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.
The company says it saw an increase in account preservation requests in the first half of 2020 compared to the first half of 2019.
Under the US Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) government agencies may request Apple to preserve users’ account data by performing a one-time data pull of the requested existing user data available at the time of the request for 90 days (up to 180 days if Apple receives a renewal request). Examples of such requests are where law enforcement agencies suspect an account may have been used unlawfully or in violation of Apple’s terms of service, and request Apple to preserve the account data while they obtain legal process for the data.
As for the App Store, Apple says it received 56 legal violation takedown requests covering 239 applications. 46 of those requests came from mainland China, covering 152 applications. Apple also received 17 requests covering 39 apps for platform policy violations. 16 of these requests came from mainland China.
App Store takedown requests were down year-over-year, both in regards to legal violations and platform policy violations.
Finally, as Whittaker points out on Twitter, Apple has added a new line of copy to the Transparency Report saying that “in certain instances” it will provide data covering “customers’ iCloud content, such as stored photos, email, iOS device backups, contacts or calendars, in response to a valid emergency request.” This isn’t a new development, but rather something Apple is now clarifying in the Transparency Report.
You can read Apple’s full Transparency Report on its website here.
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