Apple: National security requests for data skyrocketed in second half of 2016

Apple says the number of United States government requests for user data skyrocketed in the second half of 2016. 

The computer and phone company released its twice-yearly transparency report Tuesday evening, showing that the number of National Security Letters more than doubled between the first and second half of 2016.

National Security Letters are similar to warrants but don't require the same evidentiary standard or approval from a judge for an agency to issue. 

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According to the report, between 5,750 and 5,999 National Security Letters were issued for data from 4,750 to 4,999 different accounts. National Security Letters (NSLs) usually contain a nondisclosure clause preventing a company like Apple from releasing information on the letters, even to the users whose account has been requested. Companies can, however, issue reports giving a range of possible numbers.

This marks at least the sixth consecutive half where the number of NSLs rose. In first half of 2014, there were between 0-249 delivered to Apple. In second half 2014, there were between 250-499. In 2015, the government issued 750-999 followed by 1,250-1,499. And in the first half of 216, it issued 2,750-2,999.

According to the report, the government also requested data on 4,254 accounts through more conventional means, like search warrants, subpoenas and other court orders.