Apple files first-ever transparency report, calls out federal government

Apple filed a transparency report Tuesday that details government requests for data from devices, as well as iTunes, iCloud, e-mail, and other content services, along with an amicus brief to a case in hopes of loosening a government "gag order" that prevents further disclosure.

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
A sign outside Apple headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. A document, leaked by Edward Snowden, was the first hard evidence of a massive data collection program aimed at combating terrorism under powers granted by Congress after the 9/11 attacks.
This screen shot from the Apple transparency report shows the number of account data requests from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2013.

Apple joined several other major tech companies Tuesday in releasing a transparency report after being implicated in the major NSA PRISM surveillance program.

In addition to releasing what it says is as much information on data requests from Jan. 1 to June 30, 2013 as legally possible, in the report Apple is quick to condemn the surveillance and push for further transparency from the federal government.

“We have reported all the information we are legally allowed to share, and Apple will continue to advocate for greater transparency about the requests we receive,” states the introduction to the report.

The report says that Apple received up to 5,542 requests for data from the US government, and responded to at least 3,110 requests with “some” data. Apple clarified that requests could either be device requests, which asks for information on lost or stolen devices, or account requests, which ask for data on a specific iTunes, iCloud, e-mails, or other online accounts. Some 1,000 to 2,000 of these were account requests, though Apple says the majority of these requests asked for basic user info such as name and address, and rarely asked for photos or e-mail content.

Outside of the US, the report shows that Apple received a high number of requests from the UK, Germany, Australia, Spain, Singapore, and France, though all requested about a tenth or less of the amount of account data asked for by the US.

Apple could not be more specific in the account requests section of the report due to a US government “gag order” that restricted their ability to give exact numbers of account requests received and in which cases data was released.

In response to this, Apple has filed an amicus brief at the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in support of a larger group of cases advocating for transparency, adding its support to briefs and letters filed by Yahoo, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.  

“We feel strongly that the government should lift the gag order and permit companies to disclose complete and accurate numbers regarding [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] requests and National Security Letters,” Apple says in the report. “We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent.”

Apple was also clear in saying its business does not depend on gathering personal data from clients.

Apple isn’t the first company to release a transparency report. Google has released transparency reports every six months since 2011 and Facebook released its first transparency report in August.

The wave of transparency started when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden released secret NSA documents this summer that showed nine tech companies were part of a wide-reaching online surveillance program called PRISM. Nearly all have denied knowledge of NSA surveillance outside of filed requests.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Apple files first-ever transparency report, calls out federal government
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today