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Apple details government information requests for first time

A woman speaks on her iPhone as she walks on a busy street in downtown Shanghai September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song
A woman speaks on her iPhone as she walks on a busy street in downtown Shanghai September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Aly Song

(Reuters) - Apple Inc on Tuesday disclosed the number of information requests it received from governments around the world, making it one of the last big tech companies to do so in the wake of the controversy over data collection by U.S. national security agencies.

In its report, which follows similar disclosures from Microsoft Corp, Google Inc, Facebook Inc and others, Apple signaled its opposition to U.S. government strictures on the type of data it is allowed to report, and called for more transparency in the process.

From January 1 to June 30 this year, Apple said it received between 1,000 and 2,000 account information requests from U.S. law enforcement bodies, affecting between 2,000 and 3,000 Apple accounts. It said it disclosed data on zero to 1,000 accounts.

Apple, along with other technology companies, is allowed only to report such numbers in increments of 1,000 and must combine law enforcement and national security requests, making it impossible to know exactly how many are security-related.

The company registered its opposition to those strictures on Tuesday.

"We feel strongly that the government should lift the gag order and permit companies to disclose complete and accurate numbers regarding FISA (Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act)requests and National Security Letters," Apple said in its report. "We will continue to aggressively pursue our ability to be more transparent."

Microsoft, Google and other tech companies are challenging the U.S. Department of Justice's stance on restricting the disclosure of FISA court orders, so far with no success.

Apple said on Tuesday it filed a letter with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court supporting a group of cases requesting greater transparency.

Tech companies are keen to push for, or at least be seen to be pushing for, transparency in their dealings with U.S. intelligence agencies. Revelations by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden have suggested they allowed the NSA direct access to servers containing customer data, an allegation they deny.

(Reporting by Bill Rigby. Editing by Andre Grenon)

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