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Apple joins fight on personal data requests

07 November 2013, 15:24Duncan Alfreds

Cape Town - Apple has joined a growing list of technology companies who have expressed their frustration with the gag orders imposed in terms of the collection of data by the US government.

Apple published report for customers and policymakers hoping to leverage public opinion to give the California-based producer of the iPhone and iPad space to publish information of data requests by the government.

"We believe that our customers have a right to understand how their personal information is handled, and we consider it our responsibility to provide them with the best privacy protections available," the report says in part.

National security orders have come under scrutiny and web giant Google, Microsoft and Yahoo have all expressed the sentiment that the US should allow companies to report accurately on the scope of demands for information.


"At the time of this report, the US government does not allow Apple to disclose, except in broad ranges, the number of national security orders, the number of accounts affected by the orders, or whether content, such as e-mails, was disclosed.

"We strongly oppose this gag order, and Apple has made the case for relief from these restrictions in meetings and discussions with the White House, the US Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the courts," Apple said.

At present, the orders remain in place and companies have taken measures to pressure policymakers into either abandoning the requests or to make them public.

Google publishes a Transparency Report, but is not allowed to be specific about the exact nature of the personal data requests made by the US government.

Some analysts have argued that the national security letters in conjunction with the revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden could harm the business of US internet companies as a public backlash against the harvesting of information may ensue.

Apple published in its report a list detailing the number of requests for personal information it received from the government for countries, but is prohibited from being specific about US data requests.

The company though, was careful to point out that the vast majority of requests received related to stolen devices as part of criminal investigations.

South Africa

"These types of requests frequently arise when our customers ask the police to assist them with a lost or stolen iPhone, or when law enforcement has recovered a shipment of stolen devices.

"Only a small fraction of the requests that Apple receives seek personal information related to an iTunes, iCloud, or Game Centre account," the report says.

Though the overall majority of data requests were from Spain at 102, Apple complied in only 22 cases, whereas in Germany where 74 law enforcement requests were received, Apple complied in 40 cases.

South Africa made no requests for user information and Apple said its business model did not rely on collecting personal information.

"Perhaps most important, our business does not depend on collecting personal data. We have no interest in amassing personal information about our customers."

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