Apple, Google, Microsoft increasingly defying U.S. government, informing customers of data demands

If the government demands your personal, private email or other data, Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Apple, and others are reportedly taking steps to notify you faster and more frequently than they did in the past. That's putting them at odds with prosecutors who believe such notifications can interfere with ongoing investigations and evidence gathering. The Washington Post:

Fueling the shift is the industry's eagerness to distance itself from the government after last year's disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance of online services. 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.

These new policies, however, don't affect data requests from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court or from National Security letters, which are automatically gagged as a matter of law.

Google already has their policy in place, which includes exemptions of imminent harm and criminal activity. They said in a statement:

We notify users about legal demands when appropriate, unless prohibited by law or court order.

Apple's statement:

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.

Microsoft is likewise working on revising their disclosure policies.

For much more on the matter and its implications, see the link below. Then let me know — how comfortable are you with the way companies handle disclosing demands for your information?

Source: The Washington Post

Rene Ritchie

Rene Ritchie has been covering the personal technology industry for almost a decade. Editorial Director at Mobile Nations, analyst at iMore, video and podcast host, you can follow him @reneritchie on Snapchat, Instagram, or Twitter.

  • Wow
  • You've said it.. -- Bam --
  • Google....that Name!!!
  • It's an act. They hand over data
  • They have no choice in the matter... you do realize this right?
  • I get your point, but if they all band together and dig their heels in and garner public support, then things will change.
  • and executives will go to jail. You realize they can't dig in their heels and ignore a court order, right?
  • Of course. I'm speaking in strategic terms not tactical. No president will want to suffer the public wrath and resulting scrutiny of top tech executives being arrested for trying to protect the public's privacy. Really bad PR. 
  • Yes, they do. Previously, they were handing over data on request and by subpoena. Looks like now they're making them go get warrants. They also never used to notify the users, now they are.
  • So basically they are doing what they should and COULD have done all along. Before they wanted to be LIKED by some govt agents since there was no downside. Now that there is a downside, they want to act like they are standing up to the man when in reality they had made a conscious decision to suck up to him before. They aren't standing up to anyone, just trying to spin it to look like it.
  • Although i have nothing to hide, the government needs to stop spying on citizens.
  • Precisely. It always bothers me when people see that I have all my personal electronic stuff very private and secure, thru ask, "What are you hiding?" Nothing, but does that mean I'm not entitled to some privacy?
  • It's like the creepy neighbor who always has to know when you're coming or going.
  • It's like god is watching us. But there should only be one god.
  • Big brother... Always watching
  • You don't. But many people do. For example with in the last year alone 100 and perhaps 1000's of criminals were spotted, picked up and convicted by the authorities in my local region using the same methods as the NSA. I don't think this is a good thing. If you have teens at home beware. It is open season for sex offenders. And that is just one of the millions of risk for internet users.
  • "Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." ~ Benjamin Franklin
  • Beautiful phrase.
  • This is the quote that I consider every time I hear about some new bullshit move from the oval office, judiciary, NSA, or their ilk. Knowledge is the new power, and power grabs are now party-agnostic. There are no more honest do-gooders. Just goes to show that the two party system is becoming more and more of a wash... would you prefer a little left or a little right of the center of evil?
  • +1 got the point here. Maybe I misunderstood the other post. I'm using the wpc app...
  • Definitely left. No need to add additional social moral evils too.
  • Back when internet didn't exist.
  • Ok. Still doesn't make it any less relevant.
  • Wait, you prefer those criminals to be running free? Or are you saying they were wrongly convicted? In any case, it's a balancing scale between security and convenience/privacy. If the gov't scales back some of the snooping, you're going to have people who will cry and sue the gov't for not doing enough for something that might have been preventable.
  • You seem to be missing the point. Here is another quote to complement the Benjamin Franklin one. ...... "A government big enough to give you everything, is also big enough to take everything." - Thomas Jefferson. I might be paraphrasing...
  • We prefer them to do their jobs by the law and not violate constitutional protections of innocent people. Sure we want criminals caught but we don't want the baby thrown out with the bath water.
  • Shades of the 60's and 70's, when we were all convinced the FBI was tapping our phones illegally. VERY Big Brother.
  • Don't say you have nothing to hide. Do you have curtains on your windows? Can I see your credit card statement? Everybody has something to hide, everybody has done something in their life that was illegal or could be considered suspicious.
  • Good for them
  • Good. The less NSA agents peering through my personal info, the better.
  • It doesn't stop them. It just means you'll (probably) know when they do.
  • IMO the government is becoming way too dependant on intelligence via the web. It's going to take action like this from providers and users to fend off these lazy bastards who think on-line data mining is the best way to put the populace behind bars. I will applaud any efforts by MS, Goog and APPL that sends the NOOOO message!
  • It seems to me, the more the governments Gartner information carte blanche, the harder it will be for them to find what they need in the mounds of information when something does happen. What ever happened to investigation, cause and suspicion?
  • Digital age man. Access of information is easily grabbed through the brain we call the internet. Its crazy, convenient, but also less satisfying.
  • Stand up to those thugs
  • Good freaking job! >:) I strong agree with @kevC4D
  • He who has nothing to hide has nothing to fear - Favorite phrase for the US government these days!!!
  • Unless you're the President, a member of Congress or a
  • Those in power have nothing to fear when problems can "accidentally" disappear...
  • Like indefinite detention, and drone strikes you mean. :)
  • You mean those who have money, aka power.
  • Anne Frank had nothing to hide.
  • One may have nothing to hide, but if one belongs to a group or even visit websites the government decides are a threat to national security, like Greenpeace, anti-GMO, banking reform, anti-war, save-the-whatever, then you are targeted. With the new federal laws, you only have to be suspected of being a terrorist to be indefinitely detained. This is the truth. 
  • "If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear" - Joseph Göebbels, Propaganda Minister for the Nazi party. We all know that went well.
  • If it helps get certain people off the streets and put behind bars then I'm all for it, maybe it helps prevent some terrorist from killing s bunch of people. Go for it I've got nothing to hide.
  • You can easily buy a gun in the US yet Kinder chocolate eggs are prohibited. The problem in American logic goes deeper than that paranoid war on terror.
  • Probably a competing company who lobbied that one. :)
  • This what I assume its for anyway. If you have a clean record and no connections to terrorist groups or criminal organizations why worry.
    OTOH all governments are known to abuse things like this though.
    To catch corrupt politicians, thieving CEOs, etc go for it.
  • Think this through man. It's not that simple. 
  • Why bother-it's the government. They can do whatever they want and there's nothing you and I or anybody can do about it.
  • A lot of people said the same thing I'm sure about King George and we all know how that turned out.
  • Extremely short sighted.
  • I understand your position, and once held it... but this is a 4th amendment violation plain and simple. They haven't restricted it to known bad actors, it's just been massive data dumps. If tampering with a physical mailbox without cause, warrant, or due process is a felony, how is a digital mailbox fair game? It's no different than an unwarranted wiretap. Claiming public domain on social networks is one thing, invading a presumed private channel is another entirely.
  • These are people, just like you and me. What happens when you give people power? They abuse it of course. You can't put that kind of trust in someone you don't know. This war on terror is just fucking propaganda, it's not even true. What happend in Germany when everyone gave up their rights and trusted Hitler to protect them? It's fucking unbelievable how shortsighted people are, it was just fucking 70 years ago. The US president now has taken the right to personally order executions without trial.
    They have also passed a law where they can detain anyone without charge, indefinitely.
    They are already saving all the information they can about everyone for future reference (thanks whistleblowers).
    They are waging illegal wars, both constitutionally and by internationl law. It sure doesn't sound like a democracy to me. More like it's turning fascist. History always repeats itself.
  • I'm all for the providers taking a stand. I don't want anyone screwing with my privacy. And if I they are. I damn sure want to know about it.
  • ... Sigh.. Well at least we'll be notified... This was gonna keep going on, notice or no notice, so yeah... Notify me.
  • You can also be "notified" by a forceful knock or breaking down of your front door with black Chevy Tahoes in front of your place.
  • Noob here. Do they eye people outside the US too? Just wondering :P
  • Not particularly the NSA, but there are intelligence companies from other countries who are doing this also
  • But, they would look into the data of only those who interest em, if you know what i mean, right?
  • Lol.
  • I would imagine that's mainly what it's used for. We may never truly know the extent of all of this.
  • Imagine :D
  • First of all I'm not in the US. Also I have no major problem with them trying to access my info, but when they do, I at least want to be notified about it.
  • About time. In Europe you can't request that info without a court order and the moment the order is issued the person under investigation has to be informed of it. Otherwise the collection of data will be deemed unlawful and invalid. About time the US starts to catch on with the laws of the West and leave their Sovietic way of do things behind. And if Google, Microsoft et al help, even better.
  • Yeah, especially when google became the hub for information.
  • I wonder when things will get so bad that the government will be overthrown. It's definitely going to happen before the end of this century.
  • You'll need a war for that. Either Civil or international. Otherwise the army is too well tamed to rise their arses and do something. And you need the support of the army nowadays to overthrow governments
  • That's a bit intense for information.
  • Well there's a whole lot of other reasons too.
  • Have you not seen the hunger games lol
  • Firstly: I have never been so finicky about my personal information, except of course stuff like financial info etc. which are accessible to relevant government bodies in any case.  Secondly: in a country like India. agencies will not be so proactive to gather a large chunk of data and do some 'big-data' analysis. If they do need to access anyone's data though, they will do so whether its legal or not. So no point worrying about it. Lastly: I would rather feel more secure if there is a policy in place to gather such data and the person whose data is being shared is made aware of it. So I am completely with all the technology companies, who of course have big capable legal teams of their own, that they have the responsibility of alerting a user if his/her data is being shared with ANY third party. This would also put some accountability on the government bodies to justify at a later date why they collated data and what did they do with it. If such alerts are not present, the protectors themselves may become a threat and start misusing their powers, which come without any accountability.
  • This article is about Microsoft, Google, apple and Facebook but there is a Blackberry phone in the pictue?    Couldn't find a picture without Blackberry phone in it?  lol
  • Precisely. Lol
  • Obama uses a black berry so fuck black berry lol
  • Good. That's how it should be
  • I'd rather have the government collect all my data than a private corporation like google. Though I'd much prefer both entities respect individuals privacy.
  • This is all b.s. We all know all these companies are in the pockets of the government. If the government tells Microsoft and all these guys do this do that, make the customer feel like they are in control, they do it right away. Otherwise goodbye money. I don't believe any of this. It's all to make us feel like "oh cool they are on our side." It is the total opposite. Just more miss leading stuff...
  • It's more than that though. They are forced to comply. Look at what happened to Joseph Nacchio, former Qwest CEO. He was arrested on bullshit charges when he didn't comply to handing over information. Do you honestly think it would be any different if Apple or Microsoft refused to hand something over? It isn't all about the money. You act like companies are just salivating at the mouth and waiting patiently with data in hand for the first government official who asks, I really don't think that's the case.
  • Seems faster
  • seems old and tired
  • People like you are the reason jokes get old and bad.
  • Wait......theirs privacy on the internet? I did not know this.
  • it`s cool))
  • More of there data centers need to burn down. Just saying.
  • What happened to the idea of due process, and that an accused should know what he is being accused of? We're entitled to our privacy, irrespective of whether people want it or otherwise.
    If they're looking into someone's personal, private space, they are suspicious of something. That is tacit accusation in the law and the accused has a right to know. Fishing trips do pick things up - mostly not, but it happens. Instead of picking someone out and then fishing, it would perhaps benefit the agencies to do more solid work prior to accusing someone and then openly challenge them to refute. In the light of day. These shadows games are completely rearranging the social fabric of society. Those giving up their rights and liberties for perceived or fabricated safety deserve neither - the rest, well what after they supposed to do about what is going on? The machine rumbles on...
  • Google has no qualms about selling every scrap of our personal info to the highest bidder but balks when the government wants to take a peek without paying for it...
  • Actually the government pays a lot of money when they request information. If I recall correctly AT&T received millions of dollars for the work they did pulling records to fulfill government requests.
  • Actually google is leading the forefront on browser and surfing data encryption. Allowing less and less to be view by prying agencies.
  • A government is like fire, a handy servant, but a dangerous master.” George Washington
  • I will be impressed when one of them states a policy of "and if such a gag order is received we will not comply due to its unconstitutionality"
  • Right, corps are in bed with Gov. Back doors built into all devices.
  • For those dumping on me for having this opinion then talking about democracy well democracy allows for my opinion as much as it does yours. It is my opinion that the government can scrape what ever the hell they want if there is the slightest chance that it adds security to myself and to my kids. If choosing between constitution and added security I chose security any day of the week.
  • I love living in a country that didn't trust it's own people.
  • Days like this make me proud to be a non-American. Being Canadian is great. My information has been given to the cdn govt, but my carrier (Rogers) called me & asked "are you aware of any reason the government may have for requesting your telephone records?". Nothing I'm aware of, have at 'er.
  • Rene was kind enough to provide a link to the original article which says a few things.  First of all it says this data was collected via subpoenas.  Okay so that is an instrument of a COURT.  It is not some beat cop calling goolge up and asking for your emails.  Also the article goes on to say none of this is applicable to stuff requested by the FISA Court or national security letters from the FBI.  So basically the largest portions of data collection are exempt.   I honstly wonder about the readership of this website.  I personally have never been the target of a subpoena requesting a seach of my personal documents, car or home.  What kind of lifestyle are you guys leading where this is a big issue?   Are people on the internet oblivious to wire tapping that has gone on for decades?  Are people mad that the FBI secretly wire tapped mobsters and used the tapes to put killers behind bars?!  I mean it is pretty normal for law enforcement to do surveillance including wire taps secretively.  Never heard of it being a problem in general.  As with anything there are specific cases where it was abused but I never heard anyone say let's take wire tapping away from the FBI entirely or lets inform all mobsters when the FBI is listening.  People under surveillance should be informed eventually but private companies should not troll and disrupt legitimate law enforcement investigations.