Apple saw 400 percent jump in U.S. national security requests in 2017

Apple reported a huge jump in the national security orders received in the first six months of 2017 compared to the same period last year.

In its biannual transparency report, released on Thursday, Apple said it received between 13,250 and 13,499 national security orders, affecting between 9,000 and 9,249 accounts. In the first months of 2016, the company received less than a quarter of that: 2,750 to 2,999 orders affecting between 2,000 to 2,249 accounts.

The request for information for a national security investigation is issued by the FBI in the form of national security letters (NSL) or in the form of a request under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA.

Through a NSL or a FISA request, the FBI can compel companies and individuals to turn over personal data without a warrant from a judge. Apple noted “to date, Apple has not received any orders for bulk data.”

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It is unclear why there has been a spike of requests for Apple’s data from the United States government. NSLs are almost always served secretly and comes with an indefinite gag order to muzzle any individual or company from disclosing the contents of the letter. Apple in the report said it received no declassified NSLs.

Apple and other tech companies can report how many NSLs they received in bands as small as 250 letters.

Apple has been publishing these transparency reports twice a year since 2013.

“Apple is very seriously committed to protecting your data and we work hard to deliver the most secure hardware, software and services available,” the company wrote in the report.

On the whole, Apple actually saw a decrease in demands from governments around the world to access its devices. It received 30,814 demands to access 233,052 devices, down 6 percent compared to last year.

Google also released its transparency report on Thursday and saw an uptick in NSLs received — albeit at a volume much smaller than Apple’s. Google received up to 500 NSLs for up to 1,499 accounts.

While Google and Apple release its transparency reports, it is not an universal practice in Silicon Valley. Microsoft and Facebook are two of the biggest companies which choose not to release how many NSLs they received.

Photo: The Apple logo is seen on Sept. 11, 2012 at the Yerba Buena Center for Arts in San Francisco. (AFP/Getty Images)


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