iCloud user data: growing hunger among law enforcement agencies

iCloud user data: growing hunger among law enforcement agencies

Government inquiries about iCloud and Apple device data continue to rise: in the first half of 2021 alone, Apple received almost 12,600 inquiries from law enforcement officers about user accounts and Apple IDs worldwide. In 85 percent of the cases, data was released, the group explains in its most recent transparency report. Before the data is transmitted, each request is checked for legality, Apple emphasized. Apple should therefore log significantly more than 20,000 requests for the first time in the past full year 2021, thus exceeding the previous record.

Some of the requests for information on a good 37,100 iCloud/Apple ID accounts are only interested in basic data such as name and address, but they can also insist on the release of personal to sensitive iCloud data. This ranges from photos to e-mails, address book and calendar to the complete iPhone backup, which is stored in iCloud by default – and is still not protected by end-to-end encryption. These backups also allow law enforcement officers to gain access to iMessage communications.

According to Apple’s most recent transparency report, the company then released such personal iCloud content for almost 4,000 requests, which is also a new record. It is also striking that this data mainly goes to authorities in America – a good 1,000 of the inquiries come from Brazil, almost all the rest from the USA. In response to inquiries from German authorities, Apple only transmitted iCloud content in one case.

As in previous years, German law enforcement agencies are the frontrunners when it comes to inquiries about Apple devices, including serial numbers and IMEIs. These requests for information are primarily about investigations into stolen hardware, Apple says. According to the Transparency Report, Apple also kicked around 120 apps from the App Store by government order in the first half of 2021, mostly in China and South Korea.

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