Apple has fought with law enforcement before over requests for personal data locked away inside an iPhone. The most notable showdown occurred a couple of years ago when the FBI wanted to see the data inside the Apple iPhone 5c owned by San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook. Apple claimed that the only way to make that happen was to develop a unique version of iOS that could unlock any iPhone. Considering the risk of such a program getting leaked, or copied and distributed by hackers, Apple might have been right to put up a fight. The FBI reportedly paid a fortune to have a third-party firm unlock the device, and found nothing in the way of data related to the shooting.
Apple notes that last year it handled 14,000 requests from law enforcement, which included 231 "domestic emergency requests," with most taken care of within 20 minutes after Apple received the initial correspondence. While email was the form of communication most used by Apple in these situations, the company is looking to make some changes. In a letter (seen by Reuters) dated September 4th from Apple General Counsel Kate Adams to U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Apple says that it is building an online tool that law enforcement officers can use to make and track requests for user data from the company.
In addition, the company says that it will produce an online training course and build a team of trainers to help smaller departments learn what customer data Apple will and won't provide to the law. This will apparently replace the personal training that Apple has provided to approximately 1,000 law enforcement officials at its Cupertino headquarters. Apple does provide user data that has been stored in iCloud. However, the company must receive a valid legal request for turning over that information.