Compliance Management, Network Security, Privacy, Vulnerability Management

Apple transparency report shows increased U.S. national security requests

Apple this week released its transparency report for the second half of 2016, revealing that U.S. government national security requests rose markedly from the previous six-month period.

According to the semiannual report, from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2016 Apple received between 5,750 and 5,999 FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Art) orders and National Security Letters, involving 4,750-4,999 accounts. This represents a significant jump from the first half of 2016, during which Apple received a range of 2,750-2,999 orders, involving 2,000-2,249 accounts.

The number of national security requests that the U.S. has issued to Apple continues to grow since the company first reported this statistic in its second-half 2013 transparency report. That report tallied only 0-249 such requests over the last sixth months of 2013.

Globally, law enforcement agencies worldwide requested details about Apple accounts linked to potential unlawful activity 2,231 times in the latter half of 2016. Apple cooperated in 79 percent of these cases, providing just metadata in 1,350 instances and actual content in 410 cases. Apple challenged or outright refused 175 of these requests. The requests involved 8,880 accounts in total.

The U.S. was responsible for 1,219 of these global account requests. Apple complied with these U.S. 83 percent of the time, offering metadata in 636 cases and content in 372 instances, while denying or challenging 71 such requests. Germany sent the next most requests, followed by Hong Kong, the UK, Australia, and then Spain.

Worldwide, there were 2,392 government financial identifier requests that involved suspected fraudulent credit card activity used to purchase Apple products or services. Apple responded affirmatively with data 76 percent of the time. The U.S. made 944 of these requests, and Apple provided data in 88 percent of cases.

There were also 30,184 government device requests, whereby law enforcement agencies assisted customers with locating lost or stolen devices. Apple provided data in 72 percent of cases.

Apple received 801 requests to temporarily preserve specific users' account data. Agencies typically make this request if they are still going through the proper legal channels to obtain information, Apple notes in its report. The U.S. was responsible for an overwhelming majority of these requests: 741. A total of 1,565 accounts were linked to the 801 global requests, and Apple agreed to preserve the data for 1,096 of these accounts.

Bradley Barth

As director of multimedia content strategy at CyberRisk Alliance, Bradley Barth develops content for online conferences, webcasts, podcasts video/multimedia projects — often serving as moderator or host. For nearly six years, he wrote and reported for SC Media as deputy editor and, before that, senior reporter. He was previously a program executive with the tech-focused PR firm Voxus. Past journalistic experience includes stints as business editor at Executive Technology, a staff writer at New York Sportscene and a freelance journalist covering travel and entertainment. In his spare time, Bradley also writes screenplays.

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