Apple Will Begin Notifying Users of Information Requests from Law Enforcement

applelogo.pngApple will begin notifying its users of secret personal data requests from law enforcement, according to The Washington Post, as the company believes users have a right to know in advance if their information is being targeted by the government.

Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.

Prosecutors, however, say the move could tip off criminals, allowing them to destroy potential digital evidence, cover their tracks and intimidate potential witnesses before law enforcement can build their case. Alternatively, the Post notes that some companies who already notify users before a government requests have found that investigators have dropped data requests to avoid having suspects learn of their inquiries.

In the United States, the typical search warrant requires the police to notify the suspect that they are being searched. However, so-called "sneak-and-peek" warrants are not unheard of and allow investigators to search a suspect's house or other property without any notification. This ability was expanded in the PATRIOT Act, allowing the Federal Government to utilize such warrants in nearly any crime.

Apple and the other companies are seeking to nullify these sneak-and-peek warrants as they pertain to the digital realm.

Apple's changes will be unveiled in an updated privacy policy later this month, an Apple spokeswoman told the Post, and users will be notified in "most cases" when their information is requested by a government entity. Cases in which Apple would not notify users include data requests from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and subpoenas from the FBI for national security investigations.

“Later this month, Apple will update its policies so that in most cases when law enforcement requests personal information about a customer, the customer will receive a notification from Apple,” company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.

The Cupertino company has been increasingly concerned about privacy matters since the discovery of secret intelligence program PRISM, with CEO Tim Cook saying the NSA would have to cart them "out in a box" before it could access Apple's servers. Apple has also hired certified privacy professional Sabrina Ross as privacy counsel to oversee the protection of customer data.

Note: Due to the political nature of the discussion regarding this topic, the discussion thread is located in our Politics, Religion, Social Issues forum. All forum members and site visitors are welcome to read and follow the thread, but posting is limited to forum members with at least 100 posts.

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Top Rated Comments

rmatthewware Avatar
131 months ago
If the government needs the data so bad, maybe they should get a warrant and physically confiscate the device?

or just install internet explorer on the phone...
Score: 29 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Z400Racer37 Avatar
131 months ago
In this case how long the notification will come before the data is turned over. I would imagine the government wants it to be as short as they can get it so you can't tamper anything.

My data. My property. Don't care what they want.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Mattsasa Avatar
131 months ago
Thank God
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)
gnasher729 Avatar
131 months ago
this is terrible, way to let criminal enterprises and drug dealers get away with it.

if you have nothing to hide why do you care? this only helps criminals and terrorists. i am very disappointed in Apple.

"If you have nothing to hide..." is the typical bully boy response to this. You make it seem as if anyone caring about privacy is doing nasty things that need to be hidden away. The clear intent is to paint anyone who cares about privacy as morally and ethically inferior.

There's a good chance that Apple will get requests for example if you committed the serious crime of dating the daughter of a policeman. Or the even more serious crime of being the neighbour of a policeman who is curious about you. Or the even more serious crime of watching a violent policeman beating up someone in the street, and now they need to find some dirt on you to protect that policeman. There's a good chance that the information if it is saucy enough and you are just slightly famous will go straight to the next newspaper, or even has been paid for in advance by a newspaper.

This doesn't "only help criminals and terrorists". It has the most beneficial effect of protecting innocent people from a police state. Because I do lots of things that are none of any ****ing policeman's ****ing business, and I applaud Apple for protecting my freedom and my rights to do these things. And the right to say this without the fear that the number of speeding tickets that I receive will grow exponentially because I used the words "****ing policeman".

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If I have nothing to hide, you have no business with me.

If you have nothing to hide, you lead a very boring life. :D

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In people's paranoia about the gub'mint listening in on their Mother's Day wishes to dear ol' Mom, they are forgetting that there are often times when the data taps are absolutely justified - i.e., child porn traffickers are often caught this way. I hope Apple takes great care in exactly who they are alerting and don't inadvertently let criminals escape justice.

Here's what you don't get: All these laws are about protecting the rights of innocent citizens. The way to protect the rights of innocent citizens is to take away the incentives for the police to spy on people in a way that would be unacceptable if these people are innocent. That's why for example the results of illegal searches can't be used even if they prove someone is a criminal, because making these results invalid protects innocent people from illegal searches.

Since Apple is not the police, and has no idea what you are doing, asking Apple to take great care who they are alerting is ridiculous. They don't know, and they have no reason to care. Apple doesn't classify people into "innocent", "guilty", "possibly guilty". They classify people into "has an iTunes account" and "has no iTunes account", and that is all that Apple knows and needs to know.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Robert.Walter Avatar
131 months ago
Kudos to Tim Cook and the Apple team!

Now if Apple could just set-up its own:
1. DNS address system
2. TOR anonymization relay system.

We could be relatively sure not to be snooped on by google or the NSA.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Bloomedis Avatar
131 months ago
Finally, some Fourth Amendment realization here.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)