Apple mandates U.S. court orders for law enforcement to access push notifications

  • Apple’s New Policy: Requires U.S. law enforcement to obtain court orders for customer push notification information.
  • Notification Content: Push notifications reveal users’ online activity, including messages, news, and weather alerts.
  • Policy Update: Apple’s shift in approach was silently updated in its law enforcement guidelines online.
  • Comparison with Google: Google already requires court orders for push notification data, maintaining a similar policy for Android.
  • Government Surveillance Concerns: Senator Wyden highlights Apple and Google’s unique role in facilitating government surveillance of app usage.
  • International Implications: Google considers disclosure to foreign governments based on applicable laws and international norms, adding complexity to data requests.
Obtaining Apple push notification data now requires U.S. court orders (Image: Boing Boing)
Obtaining Apple push notification data now requires U.S. court orders (Image: Boing Boing)

Apple’s New Policy on Push Notifications

In a recent development, Apple has instituted a new policy that mandates U.S. law enforcement agencies to secure a court order when seeking information related to customers’ push notifications. These push notifications, commonly used by iPhone apps, serve to notify users about breaking news, messages, weather updates, and various other content.

Although Apple has not formally announced this policy shift, it came to light through an updated version of the company’s law enforcement guidelines available online. Notably, Apple’s major competitor in the mobile operating systems realm, Google, had already implemented a similar policy for its Android system.

Senator Wyden Raises Concerns

Despite the lack of an official statement, this move has garnered attention, particularly from Senator Ron Wyden. On December 6, Wyden wrote to Attorney General Merrick Garland, highlighting that both Apple and Google play a pivotal role in enabling government surveillance of user activity within specific apps. Wyden emphasized that since servers at these tech giants process app data, they receive metadata linked to individual phones, potentially exposing information that could be detrimental to users.

While Senator Wyden did not specify which governments he was referring to, the concerns raised underscore the broader issue of privacy and government access to user data. Apple, based in Cupertino, California, has not provided immediate responses to inquiries about this new policy.

In contrast, Google’s spokesperson, Matt Bryant, clarified the company’s stance on the matter. According to Bryant, Google has consistently required a court order to compel the disclosure of data associated with push notifications. Additionally, he noted that the disclosure of such data to foreign governments would be subject to applicable laws, which vary by region, and other considerations such as international norms.

As technology companies grapple with the balance between user privacy and government requests for information, the implementation of these policies marks a significant step in addressing the complexities surrounding data disclosure. The evolving landscape of digital privacy and the role of tech giants in safeguarding user information continue to be subjects of ongoing scrutiny and discussion.

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Source(s): AP News

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