Tech Companies Increasingly Telling Users When Law Enforcement Comes Asking For Data
from the good-for-them dept
Google already routinely notified users of government data requests but adopted an updated policy this week detailing the few situations in which notification is withheld, such as when there is imminent risk of physical harm to a potential crime victim. “We notify users about legal demands when appropriate, unless prohibited by law or court order,” the company said in a statement.If you're looking for who to thank about this turn of events, there are two places to point. First: the good folks at EFF. For the past few years, it's been publishing its Who Has Your Back? chart looking at how companies respond to government requests for data. Each year, this list has convinced more and more companies to improve how they protect their users, and how they push back on government requests. And, the reason why so many companies are rushing to change their policies is because the EFF is about to release its latest version. Yet another reason to be happy the EFF exists.
Lawyers at Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are working on their own revisions, company officials said, although the details have not been released. All are moving toward more routinely notifying users, said the companies, which had not previously disclosed these changes.
“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.
Second, of course, is Ed Snowden. While not entirely directly at issue here -- since things like FISA Court Orders and National Security Letters are subject to gag orders barring companies from telling their users -- the generally heightened interest in government access to information provided to internet services has certainly created a culture where these companies can't get away with just rolling over for the government any more.
Of course, you could argue that it's taken these companies too long to get here -- and that's absolutely true -- but better late than never.
Oh yeah. Guess who's really upset about all of this:
The Justice Department disagrees, saying in a statement that new industry policies threaten investigations and put potential crime victims in greater peril.Once again, it seems like the DOJ and others think that anything that makes their job harder is somehow wrong. But that's incorrect. The whole point of protecting freedom is that it's supposed to be hard for law enforcement to spy on people and arrest them. That's how it's supposed to work.
“These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine,” department spokesman Peter Carr said, citing a case in which early disclosure put at risk a cooperative witness in a case. He declined to offer details because the case was under seal.