Apple, Google, and others are defying gov’ts to tell us when we’re being spied on

tech companies defying government spying the day we fight back stop mass 4

Tech companies such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and Microsoft reportedly plan to inform more people about government and law enforcement requests for their data, including emails, and other online activity. All these firms are in the process of updating their company policies to “expand routine notification of users about government data seizures,” despite the subpoenas explicitly stating the subject of the investigation should not be alerted.

In a statement, Facebook told DigitalTrends: “We are committed to transparency, and providing notice about government requests is an important part of being transparent. We are always working to improve our notification process as the law permits.”

According to the Washington Post, the Justice Department isn’t pleased with the mini rebellion, and claims by notifying customers of such activity could not only put the subject in danger, but also risk ruining active criminal investigations. The companies say that people have a right to know when their data is being targeted, and this gives them the chance to take the battle to court, should they not want their privacy invaded.

While the majority of us will initially side with the tech firms on this issue, the Justice Department does make a compelling argument for everyone to keep their mouths shut. The report quotes an official statement, saying investigations could be threatened, and “potential crime victims” could be put in danger.

Department spokesperson Paul Carr lists the destruction of evidence, intimidation of witnesses, and fleeing suspects as some of the potential risks, adding these things are “unfortunately routine” in situations where people are suddenly made aware of surveillance. A former FBI agent agreed, damning the tech firm’s decisions as PR exercises at the “expense of public safety.”

However, Google told Digital Trends: “We notify users about legal demands when appropriate, unless prohibited by law or court order.” It was added that notifications would be sent to users except in specific situations, such as when there was a danger of death or serious physical injury to a person. 

Not every rule will be broken either, and officials from the aforementioned companies have said they won’t reveal everything. The exceptions that will remain secret include requests sent by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, and administrative subpoenas sent by the FBI, all of which are covered by law. Data requests with a court-approved gag order would also be kept under the firms’ collective hats, which confirms Google’s statement on the matter.

It’s a tech-land lawyer at Perkins Coie, quoted in the Posts’s report, who highlights the reason why the policy changes should be considered a positive move. “It serves to chill the unbridled, cost-free collection of data,” he said.

Update: Added quotes from Facebook and Google.

[Image courtesy of Rena Schild/Shutterstock]

Wearables

Sony’s weird Wena isn’t a smartwatch, it’s a smart watch strap

Sony's Wena smart watch straps have been around since 2015; but the company has now decided to launch them outside of Japan, starting with the U.K.. The straps convert traditional watch straps into smart watches.
Computing

Enjoy Windows on a Chromebook with these great tips and tricks

If you want to push the functionality of your new Chromebook to another level, and Linux isn't really your deal, you can try installing Windows on a Chromebook. Here's how to do so in case you're looking to nab some Windows-only software.
Gaming

Leak allegedly reveals new ‘Animal Crossing,’ ‘Luigi’s Mansion 3’ release dates

A U.K.-based retailer reportedly leaked the release dates for the new Animal Crossing and Luigi's Mansion 3 for the Nintendo Switch. While the alleged launch dates may be legitimate, gamers are advised to wait for an official announcement.
Mobile

Happy Valentine’s Day! Coffee Meets Bagel dating app data may have been breached

Are you planning on using Coffee Meets Bagel to find love on Valentine's Day? If you've been using the app for a while, you'll probably want to change your password -- the company said a data breach may have taken place before May 2018.
Mobile

Worried about extra data charges? Here's how to check your usage on an iPhone

It's common to get a little nervous about nearing data limits. Keep your peace of mind by checking how much data your iPhone is using. Our guide on how to check data usage on an iPhone helps you stay in control.
Mobile

North Focals smartglasses discount cuts the price by a massive $400

Canadian startup North is hoping smartglasses will be the next big wearable. After announcing its new Focals smartglasses in late 2018, the company opened product showrooms in Brooklyn and Toronto and has made its first shipment.
Mobile

Exclusive: Take a look at what a next-generation 5G phone will look like

With 5G phones debuting at MWC in mere days, there is discussion about whether they will be clunky bricks that die after a few hours? A reference design from Qualcomm offerrs a glimpse of the future: This is what 5G phones will look like.
Mobile

New Apple patent hints clamshell-style foldable phone may be in the works

Apple has filed a patent for a foldable phone that suggests the company could be following in the footsteps of the likes of Samsung and Huawei. The patent describes a clamshell-style foldable phone with two separate sections.
Mobile

Xiaomi Mi 9 will be one of the first phones with monster Snapdragon 855 chip

Xiaomi's next major smartphone release will be the Mi 9, and the company hasn't held back in giving us a good look at the phone, revealing the design, the camera, and a stunning color.
Wearables

Galaxy Watch Active isn't official yet, but you can see it in Samsung's own app

Samsung may be about to resurrect its Sport line of smartwatches under a new name: The Galaxy Watch Sport Active. Leaks and rumors are building our picture of the device at the moment.
Mobile

Stop buying old tablets, says Samsung, buy the new Galaxy Tab S5e instead

Samsung has launched the Galaxy Tab S5e -- the E is for Essential -- a reasonably priced tablet that includes many of the features we like from the Tab A 10.5, and the Tab S4. Here's what you need to know.
Mobile

Bag yourself a bargain with the best budget tablets under $200

The battle for your budget tablet affections is really ramping up. Which tablet, costing less than $200, should be commanding your attention? We take a look at some different options for the budget-conscious.
Computing

What is Wi-Fi 6? Here's a look at the next evolution of the wireless standard

We're exploring the new naming convention for wireless standards, how it affects the devices you buy, and what the upcoming Wi-Fi generation is changing for the better.
Home Theater

Samsung accidentally leaks its new Galaxy Buds ahead of launch

It's been all but certain that Samsung would launch a successor to its Gear IconX wireless earbuds soon, but a newly leaked photo and recent FCC certification document seems to indicate that the debut is very close.