Science, Technology, and Social Media

Apple Says It Will Start Telling Public When Government Wants To Shut Down Apps


by Eric Lieberman

Apple revealed Friday that it will start publishing reports on government requests to shut down apps on its software platform.

The new policy, announced in its bi-annual transparency report, is potentially in response to intensified criticism Apple receives for sometimes capitulating to foreign officials’ commands.

China, for example, has been trying to clamp down on certain technological capabilities that empower people with digital freedoms, like privacy tools. Apple agreed to the Chinese government’s demand last year to remove all virtual private networks (VPNs) from its app store tailored specifically for the country, sparking concerns that the tech giant cares more about access to the mass market than principles of an open internet.

Apple — like some other tech companies, but arguably to a higher degree — has acquiesced to a number of measures the Chinese government has wanted to impose, in an apparent attempt at appeasement, even indulgence.

Overall, respective governing bodies around the world sent requests for information on devices in general at least 29,718 times in the second half of last year. And the company gave data 79 percent of the time.

Requests to preserve data for a maximum of three months occurred in 1,214 cases, totaling 2,547 accounts, providing investigators with more time to traverse the legal process needed for legitimate data access.

For the U.S., Apple received more than 16,000 national security requests for around 8,249 accounts, a surge of 20 percent compared to the first half of 2017.

Furthermore, Apple provided data for 94 percent of appeals submitted by China, while it only did the same for the U.S. 8o percent of the time.

Google and Facebook are also fairly transparent about national security requests, which are official, somewhat common, and part of the private vs. public sector cooperation.

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