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Apple Provided Data on 4,411 Accounts to U.S. in Second Half of 2015

Apple has released its transparency report for the second half of 2015, indicating that it received a total of 1,015 requests for account data from law enforcement agencies in the United States.

According to the Cupertino-based tech giant, 5,192 user accounts were mentioned in the requests, and the company disclosed data for 4,411 accounts. Apple’s transparency report (PDF) also reveals that Apple objected to 116 of the accounts, disclosed no data for 184 of the requests, disclosed non-content data for 509 accounts, and disclosed some content for 322 accounts.

Globally, the United States has sent the largest number of requests for user data, but China requested data for the largest number of accounts between July 1 and December 31, 2015, Apple reveals. The country’s law enforcement agencies sent 32 requests for 6724 user accounts, though the tech company notes that these were predominantly accounts related to phishing investigations.

In the timeframe, Apple received 1,813 law enforcement requests worldwide for user account data, with a total of 12,850 user accounts were mentioned in these requests. According to the company, it usually has to provide the name and address of an account holder, but there are also cases where it is asked to provide customers’ iCloud content, such as photos, email, iOS device backups, documents, contacts, calendars, and bookmarks.

Between July 1 and December 31, 2015, the company also received 30,687 requests for device information from law enforcement, with 167,090 devices mentioned in them. Germany made the most requests, 11,989, and mentioned 31,360 devices in them, while the United States comes in second, with 4,000 requests for 16,112 devices.

According to Apple, most of these requests related to information about lost or stolen devices, and they might include customer contact information used to register a device with Apple or the date(s) the device used Apple services. The company counts devices based on the individual serial or IMEI numbers related to an investigation.

The tech giant received a total of 178 emergency data requests from law enforcement agencies in the second half of the last year. In cases of emergency involving imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to any person, the company discloses requested information without delay.

During the last six months of 2015, Apple received between 1250 and 1499 National Security Orders, including orders received under FISA and National Security Letters (NSLs). While these orders affected between 1000 and 1249 accounts, the company says that it hasn’t received orders for bulk data.

From July 1 to December 31, 2015, Apple received 3 account deletion requests by government, and it complied with all of them. A court order or search warrant is required for such requests, the company notes.

Compared to the first half of last year, the total number of government requests for user and device data increased. However, terrorist attacks such as those in Paris last November determined law enforcement agencies to intensify their investigative efforts.

One of the most discussed such case is the FBI’s investigation into the San Bernardino shooting, since Apple was ordered to decrypt the iPhone of the shooter but refused to do so numerous times. In the end, FBI unlocked the device with the help of grey hat hackers, but the agency didn’t reveal to Apple what exploit was used in the process.

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