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Apple says US law enforcement agencies request info on thousands of users

The Apple logo is attached to the facade of the Apple Store in Hamburg, Germany.
The Apple logo is attached to the facade of the Apple Store in Hamburg, Germany. Apple on Tuesday released its first report on government requests for user data. Maja Hitij

Apple has become the latest tech company to reveal how often U.S. government agencies — and governments around the world — request personal information on users of its products.

Apple said Tuesday it received between 1,000 and 2,000 requests from U.S. law enforcement agencies from Jan. 1 to June 30 of this year for user account information. The requests covered 2,000 to 3,000 users.

Apple reported that the number of accounts for which data was disclosed to U.S. agencies was somewhere between zero and 1,000.

If that sounds a bit vague, it is deliberately so. For purported security reasons, the U.S. government doesn’t allow companies to reveal the exact number of requests they get or precisely how much data, if any, was disclosed. That means Apple can only disclose broad numerical ranges.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based maker of iPhones, iPads and Mac computers said it strongly objected to such a government "gag order."

"Apple has made the case for relief from these restrictions in meetings and discussions with the White House, the U.S. Attorney General, congressional leaders and the courts. Despite our extensive efforts in this area, we do not yet have an agreement that we feel adequately addresses our customers' right to know how often and under what circumstances we provide data to law enforcement agencies," the company said in Tuesday's report.

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The total number of Apple devices specified in the requests was 8,605.

The most common account information requests involved cases in which police agencies were investigating robberies and other crimes, searching for missing people or hoping to prevent a suicide, Apple said.

Apple is the latest consumer technology company to release such data, following the example of Google, Microsoft, Facebook and others.

Apple said any government agency demanding customer content from Apple must get a court order. "When we receive such a demand, our legal team carefully reviews the order. If there is any question about the legitimacy or scope of the court order, we challenge it. Only when we are satisfied that the court order is valid and appropriate do we deliver the narrowest possible set of information responsive to the request," the company said.

Apple’s report offer more specific details on user information requests from foreign governments.

After the U.S., the largest number of information requests came from the United Kingdom (127), Spain (102), Germany (93) and Australia (74).

You can see the full report here.

James Eng is a contributing writer and editor for NBC News.