Summary:

The company framed it as “Apple’s Commitment to Privacy,” but as with its internet peers, the biggest questions remain: how often did Apple comply and whose customer information did they give away?

Apple's Find My Friends exemplifies its taste for skeuomorphic details like stitched leather

Very early Monday morning, Apple joined other internet companies explaining how often the U.S. government requests the personal data of its users, for national security reasons and others.

Like Microsoft and Facebook, Apple says it sought permission from the federal government to publicly disclose how often it receives requests for user data related to national security. Apple says “We have been authorized to share some of that data, and we are providing it here in the interest of transparency.”

From Apple’s press release:

From December 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, Apple received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement for customer data. Between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in those requests, which came from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal investigations and national security matters.

Notably, Apple received about half the requests that Facebook and Microsoft did. What’s not said is how often Apple complies — reports indicate that Facebook, for example, complied in some way with about 79 percent of them.

Apple says the most common type of information the government asks for has to do with stolen property (likely iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices) and locating missing people — kidnapped children, Alzheimer’s patients or suicide prevention.

Apple doesn’t characterize how often or not national security played into these requests over the past six months. But it does say that it looks at each request in order to provide only the “narrowest” set of data related to it.

The company also noted the type of data it cannot share: iMessage texts and FaceTime calls. Both are encrypted forms of messaging and “Apple cannot decrypt that data.”

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