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Back when all the concerns about the NSA and government surveillance first started making the rounds, Apple was one of the first companies to push for "greater transparency" in declaring the requests it received from the U.S. government. With a brief released today, Apple shows that it wasn't just blowing smoke.
Apple still insists that it had nothing to do with the so-called PRISM program allegedly run by the NSA, and in an associated amicus brief (via Foss Patents) it calls out the newspapers such as The Guardian that had "erroneously" claimed Apple was involved. In the brief, Apple outlines the rough amount of requests from the FBI it had to comply with. Keep in mind, though, that the actual details are scant. As the brief says, "At the time of this report, the U.S. government does not allow Apple to disclose, except in broad ranges, the number of national security orders, the number of accounts affected by the orders, or whether content, such as e-mails, was disclosed."
In total, Apple reported that it had between 1,000 and 2,000 requests for information in the U.S., and 719 from the world beyond. Those requests dealt with around 2,000 and 3,000 accounts in the U.S., as well as 769 worldwide. Apple reported that it complied with 225 of the requests for information from worldwide accounts, and (in a sign of how little information they're allow to give), between 0 and 1,000 in the United States.
In the brief, Apple took great pains to note that it doesn't mine customer data. "Unlike many other companies dealing with requests for customer data from government agencies, Apple's main business is not about collecting information," the brief reads. "As a result, the vast majority of the requests we receive from law enforcement seek information about lost of stolen devices, and are logged as device requests."
Apple also took the opportunity to criticize the gag order that resulted in such vague numbers. "We feel strongly that the government should lift the gag order and permit companies to disclose complete and accurate numbers regarding FISA requests and National Security Letters. We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent."
Follow this article's writer, Leif Johnson, on Twitter.