The U.S. Govt Has Asked Apple at Least 4,000 Times to Turn Over User Data in 2013

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(TheBlaze/AP) — Apple has received somewhere between 4,000 and 5,000 requests for customer data from U.S. government officials since January, the company said Monday.

The revelation comes on the heels of the tech giant announcing last week that it had asked U.S. officials for permission to disclose the data requests.

“We have asked the U.S. government for permission to report how many requests we receive related to national security and how we handle them. We have been authorized to share some of that data,” Apple said.

Those requests were made as part of PRISM, the recently revealed highly classified National Security Agency program that seizes records from Internet companies.

“Apple has always placed a priority on protecting our customers’ personal data, and we don’t collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about our customers in the first place,” the company said, adding that conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are “protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them. Apple cannot decrypt that data”.

PRISM appears to do what its name suggests. Like a triangular piece of glass, PRISM takes large beams of data and helps the government find discrete, manageable strands of information.

Prism was revealed this month by The Washington Post and Guardian newspapers, and has touched off the latest round in a decade-long debate over what limits to impose on government eavesdropping, which the Obama administration says is essential to keep the nation safe.

Apple Inc. said that between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in data requests between Dec. 1, 2012, and May 31 from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal investigations and national security matters.

It said that the most common form of request came from police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer’s disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide.

The U.S. Govt Has Asked Apple at Least 4,000 Times to Turn Over User Data in 2013

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The company also made clear how much access the government has.

“We do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers, and any government agency requesting customer content must get a court order [emphasis added],” Apple said in a statement on its website.

Apple explained that its legal team evaluates each request and that it delivers “the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities” when deemed appropriate. The company said that it has refused some requests in the past.

Apple’s stock rose $3.36 to $433.41 in premarket trading on Monday.

Here’s Apple’s statement on user privacy:

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