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]

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Folding canoes and ultra-fast water filters

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Mobile

5G’s arrival is transforming tech. Here’s everything you need to know to keep up

It has been years in the making, but 5G is finally becoming a reality. While 5G coverage is still extremely limited, expect to see it expand in 2019. Not sure what 5G even is? Here's everything you need to know.
Product Review

'Marvel's Spider-Man' slings and swings its way to the top of the superhero heap

Insomniac's entry into the superhero genre has a big suit to fill, but ‘Marvel's Spider-Man’ is a phenomenal action game, a strong Spider-Man story, and an open-world game that has plenty to do without getting boring.
Mobile

We checked out Samsung’s 5G concept phone. Here’s what it’s like

5G is been all talk for years, but it's finally becoming a reality. At Qualcomm's annual Snapdragon Summit, Samsung showed off a concept of its first 5G device, which will ultimately go on to be released to the public in the first half of…
Mobile

Google to end support for Android devices running Ice Cream Sandwich

Anyone with an old phone that is still running Android 4.0 may want to look into upgrading their phone, as Google has announced that it will be ending support for this older version of Android.
Mobile

Amazon knocks $30 off its Paperwhite ebook reader in limited-time deal

Amazon is running a couple of limited-time deals for its Paperwhite ebook reader. One offers a $30 discount, while the other throws in a pair of headphones and a free, extended Audible trial.
Product Review

The iPad Pro is the best tablet ever. But don't sell your laptop just yet

Apple has unveiled a big redesign for the iPad Pro, slimming down the bezels, adding Face ID, and the ability to attach and charge the Apple Pencil. All of this comes at a high cost however, as the iPad Pro starts at $799.
Mobile

New Galaxy S10 leaks showcase display sizes, confirm headphone jack return

While we still may be months away from an announcement, there's no doubt about it: Samsung is working hard on its successor to the Galaxy S9. Here's everything we know about the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S10.
Mobile

Android 9.0 updates to stretch into 2019 -- will your phone get a slice of Pie?

Android 9.0 Pie has been released. But is your phone getting Android 9.0 Pie, and if so, when? We've done the hard work and asked every device manufacturer to see when their devices would be getting the update.
Mobile

LG G7 owners experiencing dreaded bootloop will have to wait a few days for fix

If you’ve picked up LG’s flagship and it’s not behaving itself, then you might find a solution here. We’ve rounded up the most common LG G7 ThinQ problems and tracked down workarounds and possible fixes.
Mobile

A render video gives us a 360-degree look at the midrange Pixels

The Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are considered to be two of the best Android smartphones, but it looks like Google could be prepping a midrange line. Say hello to the Pixel 3 Lite and Pixel 3 Lite XL.
Mobile

Honor to out-megapixel the competition with 48MP camera on upcoming View 20

After its phenomenal success with the View 10 in 2018, it looks like Honor is getting ready up the ante with its forthcoming Honor View 20. Here's everything we know about it so far.
Mobile

Xiaomi is preparing to set records with 48-megapixel phone camera

Bigger doesn't always mean better, but it certainly makes headlines. Chinese mobile giant Xiaomi is set to release a phone camera with a staggeringly large 48 megapixels on a single sensor.
Apple

Patent highlights Apple's sky-high ambitions for AirPower wireless charger

At its September event last year, Apple unveiled the AirPower -- its new wireless charging mat that will allow you to charge multiple devices at one time. It has not yet been released. Here's everything we know about the device so far.