Apple has published its latest transparency report, covering the second half of 2017. The numbers themselves show that little has changed as far as government requests go; but the interesting move is that Cupertino has said that it will be sharing app takedown requests in its 1 July – 31 December 2018 report.
Most of the government requests Apple receives are from law enforcement agencies looking into criminal behaviour. Be it searching for a stolen device or an investigation for credit card fraud.
In this case, the Malaysian government put in five device requests and one request for access to a user account. Apple’s report does not go into detail about the requests, but it does reveal that the details of four devices were shared with Malaysian law enforcement. Additionally, the company revealed non-content information (account ID and transaction information) of the one user account request.
For reference, Singapore made 1,036 device requests and 18 account requests during this same time.
In this case, the number of requests are likely to show the lengths at which local law enforcement will go to locate stolen iPhones. Since more developed countries like Germany and the United States put in tens of thousands of requests.
Transparency is a big deal for technology companies these days. The public is growing increasingly concerned with how their personal data is handled, and how often governments attempt to pry into their online history.
In this case Apple also privately informs individuals if any government makes a request for their personal information. Generally as a way to keep everyone up to date on what is happening with their data. But it also serves as an important check against a potential police state that snoops on all private information.
Adding government requests to remove app from the App Store will go a little further in this respect. Although, this likely covers a different aspect of the transparency record.