Apple store (image by Spencer Platt/Getty)
Brett Molina, USA TODAY
Apple has joined Facebook and Microsoft in providing details on government data requests after a former National Security Agency employee leaked information on surveillance programs gathering data on Americans.
In a statement released late Sunday, Apple says it received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests for customer data from U.S. law enforcement between last December and the end of May. Between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or Apple devices were specified in the requests.
Apple the most common request "comes from police investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing children, trying to locate a patient with Alzheimer's disease, or hoping to prevent a suicide."
The company also reiterated government agencies have no access to Apple servers, and only learned of the surveillance program -- known as Prism -- until they were approached by news outlets.
"Apple has always placed a priority on protecting our customers' personal data, and we don't collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about our customers in the first place," reads Apple's statement. "There are certain categories of information which we do not provide to law enforcement or any other group because we choose not to retain it."
Among examples cited by Apple: the company says no details are stored for Siri requests, map searches or customer locations. Also, discussions through video service Facetime and iMessage feature "end-to-end decryption."
Apple's disclosure follows similar moves by Facebook and Microsoft to share information on data requests made by the U.S. government. Facebook general counsel Ted Ullyot says between 9,000 and 10,000 requests were made in the last six months of 2012, while Microsoft received 6.000-7,000 requests.
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