The spike in requests during the latter half of 2016 has some eyebrows raised.
Apple released its biannual transparency report for the latter half of 2016, and the report showed a massive rise in National Security Letters (NSLs) from the U.S. government requesting user data. NSLs come from government agencies in the form of search warrants, wiretap orders, subpoenas and other court orders.
NSLs do not require quite the same standards as a traditional warrant, but many of the investigations result in Apple providing data. According to the report, between 5,750 and 5,999 NSLs were issued concerning data from 4,750 to 4,999 different accounts. This is quite a jump from the range of 2,750 to 2,999 NSLs Apple received in the first half of 2016.
Device-based requests in the U.S. increased dramatically as well. These requests differ from NSLs in that they are typically submitted by law enforcement agencies that are working on cases of identity theft or stolen devices. The data showed that 4,254 device requests were made concerning just more than 20,000 devices in the second half of 2016. Apple reported that it provided data for 78 percent, or 3,335, of these requests. In the first half of 2016, the 1,363 requests were made for fewer than 10,000 devices.