Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Apple's Report on Government Information Requests shows that 33% result in data disclosure

It is known that governments request information from various companies around the world. Now Apple has published a report on how it has handled the information requests by the governments around the world in the period of January 1, 2013 to June 30, 2013.

top government information request risk privacy concern
More and more people store an increasing amount of personal information on their smartphones. When such smartphones are subsequently linked up to various cloud storage services, such as the Apple iCloud for Apple iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch devices, all of the sudden, private companies will have a wealth of personal information about their users. Governments around the world of course knows this and therefore requests information from the companies in, so called, appropriate cases. The companies, subsequently may disclose personal information on their users if legal support exists.

Apple, who uses a completely closed ecosystem has already been criticized by the users who are most concerned about their privacy, such as the fingerprint privacy in the Touch ID technology and also the iMessage security and privacy issues. Now, Apple has published a report with statistics on how it has handled government information requests for the first half of the year of 2013.

The table below shows a snippet of the countries with the most total number of government account information requests and the whole report can be found here. For data on the United States, unfortunately, Apple is prohibited from publishing such data by the US laws and only states that the United States by far is the country with most government information requests every year. In addition, one can easily make an educated guess based on the numbers from other countries. While it is very refreshing to see the government information request data published, at the same time, it is shocking to also realize that about 1/3 of all information requests result in private user data being disclosed to the government.

Certainly, the laws are set and in some cases companies simply must disclose the information they have in their archive. However, what makes less sense is the amount of information that the companies store about their users in clear text, or at least encrypted forms that can be decrypted easily when requested. Considering that it has again and again been revealed that, for example, cloud storage companies such as Dropbox easily can read the data from their users in clear text, it is difficult to trust the security of anything uploaded to the cloud. Hopefully, with cloud storage being used increasingly, the companies will also take the appropriate course of action and use one-way encryption on most of the user data to protect the privacy of their users.

CountryNumber of requestsData disclosed ratio
United Kingdom12737%
Hong Kong3275%
United States1000-2000N/A

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