Apple bites back with US government spook data figures

The manufacturer says it's had 5,000 requests from government - but they're not very glamorous...

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Nov 2013

Apple has become the third major tech company to reveal the details of the kinds of requests US law enforcers have made over the past month.

The statement today follows last week’s almighty data-ocalypse, after intelligence contractor Edward Snowden leaked details of thousands of requests to tech companies including Google, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Skype and Twitter by the US government’s mysterious Prism surveillance programme.

The company said it received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests over the six months from December 2012 to May this year, which covers between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices.

That doesn’t, pointed out Apple, cover things like conversations over iMessage (Mac’s built-in messaging software), which are encrypted so only the sender and receiver can see them. It also doesn’t cover location, map searches, or ‘Siri’ (the iPhone’s voice-controlled ‘personal assistant’) requests. So if you’ve told Siri your deepest secrets, no one will know…

Admittedly, it’s still a lot of requests, but if you’re a James Bond fan, you’re going to be disappointed: the majority of the US government’s interest is, according to Apple ‘from police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide’. Well. Nice to know that they're on the side of the good guys - rather than supporting the shady purveyors of exploding cigars in the CIA.

MT has to admit it's disappointed, though. There isn’t even a whiff of a super-villain. We hoped it would be a bit more glamorous…

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