Apple Reveals Number of Customer Data Requests From U.S. Law Agencies, Repeats Denial Of PRISM Involvement

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Apple posted a press release on its site reaffirming its “commitment to customer privacy” and stating that it first heard of the PRISM program when questioned by news organizations on June 6. The company also said that it received between 4,000 to 5,000 requests from U.S. federal, state and local law enforcement for customer data between December 1, 2012 and May 31, 2013.

“Regardless of the circumstances, our Legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it,” Apple stated in its press release. Between 9,000 to 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in the requests and “included both criminal investigations and national security matters.”

The press release also states that Apple does not collect maintain personal details about customers: “there are certain categories of information which we do not provide to law enforcement or any other group because we choose not to retain it.” For example, the company says that iMessage and FaceTime conversations are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can read them, and Apple cannot decrypt the data.

Apple’s statement comes after other tech companies implicated in the NSA scandal also disclosed the number of government requests for information they had received in an effort to support their claims that they denied NSA special access to their servers and win back the trust of users.

Facebook said on June 15 that for the six months ending December 31, 2012, it had received between 9,000 to 10,000 requests for data from U.S. law enforcement agencies. During that same period Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 requests. Meanwhile, Google has asked the U.S. government to be allowed to publish more information about national security requests it has received.