New Apple Transparency Report details government requests for device access

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A timely new transparency report from Apple details how many requests it’s getting from governments to turn over user data. And perhaps a bit surprisingly, neither the U.S. nor China lead the list of governments requesting data.

The report covers the first six months of 2019. Apple said that 31,778 requests were made by governments worldwide covering 195,577 Apple devices. 82% of the time, Apple was able to provide data. Germany was the #1 country to request device data from Apple with 13,558 requests; United States was #2 with 4,796.

Apple explained the nature of the device-based requests:

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.

The report comes as Apple appears to be at loggerheads with the F.B.I. and the Department of Justice over providing access to two iPhones used by Pensacola Naval Base shooter and suspected terrorist Mohammed Saeed Alshamrani.

U.S. Attorney General William Barr and President Trump have publicly called for Apple’s assistance in unlocking the devices. Barr accused Apple of failing to offer “substantive assistance” to unlock the phones. Apple rebutted Barr’s comments in a public statement after denying the request, noting that the company has provided the agency with gigabytes of information about the suspect’s accounts since December. Apple also contends that it cannot and will not subvert the encryption on the device, noting:

We have always maintained there is no such thing as a backdoor just for the good guys. Backdoors can also be exploited by those who threaten our national security and the data security of our customers. Today, law enforcement has access to more data than ever before in history so Americans do not have to choose between weakening encryption and solving investigations. We feel strongly encryption is vital to protecting our country and our users’ data.

Do you think Apple is doing enough to protect your privacy? Should government agencies be allowed backdoor access to iPhones used by criminals and terrorists? Sound off in the comments.