Apple pipes up about government data requests

The tech giant has complained about a US government gag on fully disclosing its data requests and revealed numbers of requests made.

by Gabriella Griffith
Last Updated: 25 Nov 2013

The post-Snowden data landscape is one filled with suspicion and a small note of resentment. Apple, one of the most valuable companies in the world, has revealed the US government made between 1,000 and 2,000 information requests in the first six months of 2013 but a gagging order prevents the company from giving more exact details – but its getting tired of keeping schtum.
 
Apple said the requests made by the US government affected 2,000 – 3,000 user accounts and most of the ‘requests involve robberies and other crimes or requests from law enforcement officers searching for missing persons.’
 
Names and addresses are the most common bit of information hunted for but according to the computer giant, ‘in very rare cases, we are asked to provide stored photos or email. We consider these requests very carefully and only provide account content in extremely limited circumstances.’ Orwell eat your heart out, Big Brother is most certainly watching,
 
Apple is allowed to disclose a certain amount of information about the requests made; how many were made, how many accounts were affected and how much information it gave away, but only in very broad ranges. Apple said it had raised its concerns about these restrictions – joining a choir of tech companies including Google, Microsoft and Facebook, who are all calling for the gag to be removed.
 
‘Despite our extensive efforts in this area, we do not yet have an agreement that we feel adequately addresses our customers' right to know how often and under what circumstances we provide data to law enforcement agencies,’ said the iPad maker.
 
Before you look fondly over at your Union Jack and thank goodness you live in a country where privacy is given more than just a cursory nod, the UK came in as the country which made the second most requests (although, granted, this was a significantly lower figure of 127).
 
The issue of personal data privacy has always been a big one but it feels like things are about to blow up. Even advertising guru Sir Martin Sorrell warned of the effects the US government could have on his industry if consumers become too afraid to hand over their data.
 
Microsoft too has stoked this fire today; warning hackers could be exploiting a weak spot in its software and gaining user rights to scores of computers.
 
The software company has revealed a vulnerability in its Microsoft Windows Vista, Windows Server 2008, Microsoft Office 2003 – 2010 and Microsoft Lync – saying it was ‘aware of targeted attacks’ (current versions of Microsoft Windows and Office are reportedly safe).
 
The company has advised users to apply workarounds, which could help to block attacks. In the meantime, Microsoft will be beavering away, trying to release a security update to will solve the issue.
 
In your own time lads…

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