News National Apple admits: We gave user info to Australian government

Apple admits: We gave user info to Australian government

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Apple has disclosed for the first time that it is handing users’ personal information to Australian government agents.

The company stresses that its “main business is not about collecting information” but says it disclosed data on 41 accounts in response to 34 requests from law enforcement officials in the first six months of 2013.

A new transparency report, released on Wednesday, says Apple received a total 74 requests for account information relating to 75 individual accounts.

The company responded with no customer data to the remaining 40 requests.

Apple says it only disclosed data such as names and addresses attached to iCloud or iTunes accounts. It did not disclose any “content” data such as personal photos or emails.

The requests generally involve criminal, missing persons, or kidnapping investigations, Apple said. Occasionally authorities may also seek data in an attempt to prevent a suicide.

The report showed that only authorities in the US and UK received more account information than those in Australia.

With transparency a sensitive issue in the wake of US National Security Agency leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden, Apple is seeking to distance itself from others in the tech sector.

“Unlike other companies dealing with requests for customer data from government agencies, Apple’s main business is not about collecting information,” it said.

“As a result, the vast majority of the requests we receive from law enforcement seek information about lost or stolen devices.”

According to the report, Apple received 1178 device data requests from Australian authorities relating to 1929 devices. The company provided “some data” including customer contact information, registration dates and service histories, in response to 695 of the requests.

Microsoft’s transparency report in early October showed that the company gave Australian authorities email addresses, names, locations and internet-protocol (IP) addresses in response to 1050 of 1219 requests in the first six months of the year.

Yahoo’s first global transparency report revealed it had received 704 requests from Australian agents in the same period regarding 799 accounts or users.

The company granted full access to “content data” in response to 11 requests, handing over the content of emails, uploaded files and Yahoo address, calendar and notepad entries.

It rejected 242 requests and found no data in 146.

Facebook’s first transparency report in August reported 546 requests regarding 601 Australian-held accounts in the first six months of 2013. It granted information in response to 64 per cent.

In the same month, Twitter revealed it received 58 information requests from Australian authorities, compared with fewer than 10 in the second half of 2012.

The microblogging site responded with information in a quarter of cases.

Google is expected to release its latest transparency report in the near future.