That governmental agencies in many countries demand tech companies for data on their user base is no surprise. But what did come as a surprise for many was a report by the Associated Press, which revealed that the total number of Apple users whose data was demanded by law enforcement agencies in the US, which stood at 18,609 in the first half of 2020, was almost seven times more than the figures during a similar time frame in 2015.
Higher Number of Accounts Covered Per Request
Moreover, another thing that’s gone up during the five years between 2015 to 2020 happens to be the number of Apple accounts included in each legal request. Back in 2015, the average number of Apple accounts solicited lied around 3. However, by the furst half of 2018, this value had risen to as high as 7, among the 2,397 legal requests that were covered under the subpoena served to Apple over Cali reps Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff.
The report further holds that more than 80-90% of the legal requests served to Apple in recent years have ended in the tech giant submitting user data to law enforcement agencies. But at the same time, while submitting the data, Apple usually omitted sensitive content like texts, photos, images and related content, and emails.
A Growing Concern?
Apple isn’t the only firm that’s been in the news recently over facing data access demands by law enforcement authorities which concern user information. A few days ago, Ring, the electronic neighborhood and house security system acquired by Amazon, revealed that law enforcers, including police officials, will now be required to request users directly for gaining access to their video footages, through its Neighbors app. However, at the same time, the company has also been causing concern among exisiting and potential users, as it won’t divulge the identities of the users who have already had their data accessed.
Similarly, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI for short) was in the news recently, after it demanded that the IP addresses and phone numbers of people who had had access to a particular article published in the USA Today, which was in reference to the attack on, and deaths of, two of its officers. USA Today had retaliated against the demand, citing the recent new guidelines under the Biden government, promoting freedom of the press.
From these incidences, it does seem that law enforcement agencies requesting (and in some cases, downright demanding) user data from tech companies is common occurrence, and is only becoming greater and greater.