As part of its service to customers, Apple releases a transparency report once every semester and the report for the final half of 2015 is now available to peruse.
The report details three types of requests from law enforcement agencies namely, device requests, account requests and emergency request. Device requests are often issued when a person loses their Apple product, or it is stolen and reports it to the police.
Account requests are linked to requests for a users iTunes or iCloud account. These sorts of requests are handled extra carefully according to Apple and reportedly only provide the content within these accounts on presentation of a search warrant.
Emergency requests are only completed when federal, state or local governments justify that there is imminent danger, or a safety threat to a person.
Throughout the final half of 2015 information was requested for four Apple products throughout South Africa. Of these four requests, three Apple products were specified and in none of the requests was information provided.
This is interesting because in a quick straw poll at the htxt.africa offices we found three instances of people who had lost or had their iPhone stolen. Whether these instances were simply not reported or never progressed further than the initial police report is unclear.
The largest number of requests came from Germany which reportedly had 11 989 device requests for 31 360 products. Of these cases 6 281 were provided with some information.
As for account requests, South Africa doesn’t even feature on the list, in fact, no African countries feature on the list for account requests.
The United States does however, and it tops the list for the most account requests by law enforcement, around the world. A total of 1 015 requests were issued for 5 192 accounts. From these accounts data was disclosed for 4 411 of them and Apple objected to 116 requests.
For perspective sakes, the second highest number of account requests was in the United Kingdom with 208 requests of which 45 garnered objections from Apple.
As for emergency requests the US tops the charts as well with 106 requests, the next highest on the list is the UK with 43 requests and just below that is France, with four.
This report is only really for the peace of mind of Apple customers but it does give some insight into how often authorities are trying to get data out of smartphones.
Keep in mind though, that as the FBI proved in March, you don’t need to ask Apple to break into a smartphone.[Source – Apple][Image – CC BY/2.0 i a walsh]