Washington: Asserting that its priority is to protect the personal data of customers, US tech major Apple today said it "does not collect or maintain a mountain of personal details about users" and that its iMessage and FaceTime applications are completely safe.
"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. 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," Apple said in a message posted on its website.
The California-based company said that the conversations which take place over iMessage and FaceTime are protected by end-to-end encryption so no one but the sender and receiver can see or read them.
"Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers' location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form," it said as Apple released data related to the requests it receives from the US government on the internet usage of people.
From December 1, 2012 to May 31, 2013, Apple received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests from US law enforcement for customer data.
Between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices were specified in those requests, which came from federal, state and local authorities and included both criminal investigations and national security matters, it said.
The most common form of 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, it added.
"Regardless of the circumstances, our legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities. In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfil it," Apple said.
Microsoft and Facebook had released similar data last week.
Apple is among the leading tech companies that have been criticised since CIA analyst Edward Snowden leaked details of the secretive PRISM programme that saw nine companies revealing user data to the US National Security Agency.
The leaks have sparked a fierce debate over how to balance privacy with security over a decade after the September 11 attacks.
The companies have denied that the NSA can directly access their servers.
US authorities have said the programme was legal and limited.