Apple report may bring more transparency, advocate says

Published On November 7, 2013 | By HN Staff | Sci/Tech

By Josh McConnell

The list of Device Information Requests in Apple's Report on Government Information Requests report.

The list of Device Information Requests in Apple’s Report on Government Information Requests report.
(Credit: Apple)

A new global report released by Apple may bring new hope for consumer privacy, an expert told Humber News.

Titled Report on Government Information Requests, the seven page document lists by country how many requests Apple has received from law enforcements and how many times Apple complied.

“Any government agency demanding customer content from Apple must get a court order,” Apple said in the report.

“When we receive such a demand, our legal team carefully reviews the order,” the report said, adding that “only when we are satisfied that the court order is valid and appropriate do we deliver the narrowest possible set of information responsive to the request.”

“It is potentially a positive step for transparency,” said David Christopher, communications manager for OpenMedia.ca, an organization for privacy and internet freedom.

“It seems to be one of a number of moves the big tech giants have been taking recently to try to open up the debate a bit more about these secret surveillance and privacy issues in general,” he said.

The fact that Apple reviews the court order carefully is a positive thing for consumers, Christopher told Humber News.

“Judicial oversight is really the key here, because at the moment it seems we have these very secretive spy agencies in both Canada and the U.S. [that are] conducting this sort of secretive spying on the private lives of anyone at any time.”

“People can’t even tell when they have been victimized by it,” said Christopher.

Low numbers, high concern

Between Jan. 1 -June 30, 2013, Apple said there were only six requests by law enforcement agencies in Canada for account information and 38 requests for device information .

The lack of any U.S. data is still a concern, said Christopher. In the report, Apple said it could not release those numbers because of U.S. federal legislation,

“We strongly oppose this gag order and Apple has made the case for relief from these restrictions in meetings and discussions with the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, congressional leaders, and the courts,” Apple said in the report.

“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.”

Though the focus of recent privacy discussions has been surrounding America’s National Security Agency, north of the border Canadian citizens are still worried, Christopher said.

“I certainly think that Canadians are incredibly concerned about the revelations that have come out in recent months, particularly about the activities of Communications Security Establishment Canada.”

“Certainly here at OpenMedia, we have just been inundated. Not a day goes by without hearing from Canadians who are very upset about the secret spying that has been going on.”

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