Tech Companies Defy Government, Alert Users Of Data Requests

Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft are revising their privacy policies to more often notify users of government data requests.

Tech Companies Defy Government, Alert Users Of Data Requests
Flickr / simon_cocks

Major tech companies are putting their proverbial foot down in response to government data requests.

According to The Washington Post, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google have all said they are revising their privacy policies to notify users more often when the government requests user data.

And The Post notes these major companies will be joining with Twitter — which has been notifying users for years — and Yahoo, which updated its policy in July. (Via Yahoo)

But before you start happy-dancing for reinstated Internet privacy, you should know we're not quite there yet. (Via YouTube / Robert Magiera)

CNET points out these notifications "wouldn't apply to requests made by the NSA, or requests involving national security letters — administrative subpoenas — issued by the FBI."

Requests from these organizations come with a confidentiality clause, or gag order, built in. But other law enforcement requests can and will be reported to users, per the revised privacy policies. 

Several sources are effectively comparing this move to a game of chicken. It's been a trend, when faced with the decision of having a suspect notified of a data request versus not making a data request at all, law enforcement will typically choose the latter. (Via YouTube / Scott White)

But law enforcement officials argue the decision to notify users of data requests can be dangerous because it can put witnesses at risk. 

A Department of Justice spokesman told The Washington Post: "These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine."

But a writer for Electronista says this revision isn't intended to put witnesses in harm's way. Instead, "Companies say they already make exceptions for cases in which notification would cause imminent danger to potential victims."

The outlet describes the policy revision as a checks and balances system, one that keeps authorities from abusing data collection requests.