Apple: governments are requiring more access to customer data than ever

In the latest edition of its biannual report on Government Information Requests, Apple says that governments across the globe are making ever more frequent requests for access to customer data — and the U.S. makes six times as many account requests as China. The report covers the first six months of 2016. 

Apple says that for government information requests, it reports as much detail as legally allowed. When the company receives an account request from law enforcement requesting a customer’s personal information, it notifies the customer a request concerning their personal data was made unless — unless explicitly prohibited from doing so. 

“We are reserving the right to make exceptions, such as for extreme situations when we believe disclosing information could put a child or other person in serious danger, or where notice is not applicable to the underlying facts of the case,” says Apple.

Any government agency demanding customer content from Apple must get a search warrant. When the company receives such a demand, its legal team reviews it. If there’s a question about the legitimacy or scope of the request Apple says it challenge its it.

“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,” says Apple.

The majority of the requests Apple receives are from law enforcement agencies working on behalf of customers who have requested assistance locating lost or stolen devices, and Apple reports these as device requests. Additionally, Apple regularly receives multi-device requests related to fraud investigations. 

Device requests may include requests for customer contact information provided to register a device with Apple or the date(s) the device used Apple services. Apple counts devices based on the individual serial or IMEI numbers related to an investigation.