February 24, 2024
Governments are spying on Apple, Google users through push notifications – US Senator

by Rafael Satter

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. senator warned on Wednesday that unidentified governments are monitoring smartphone users through their apps’ push notifications.

In a letter to the Justice Department, Senator Ron Wyden said that foreign officials were demanding data from Alphabet’s Google and Apple. Although details were sparse, the letter suggests another way by which governments could track smartphones.

Apps of all types rely on push notifications to alert smartphone users about incoming messages, breaking news, and other updates. These are audible “dings” or visual indicators that users get when they receive an email or their sports team wins a game. What users often don’t realize is that almost all such information comes to Google and Apple’s servers.

This gives both companies unique information about the traffic coming from those apps to their users, Weeden said, and in turn gives them “a unique position to facilitate government surveillance of how users are using particular apps.” Keeps in”. He asked the Justice Department to “repeal or modify any policy” that hinders public discussion of push notification spying.

In a statement, Apple said Wyden’s letter gave them an opportunity to share more details with the public about how governments monitor push notifications.

“In this case, the federal government has prevented us from sharing any information,” the company said in a statement. “Now that this method has become public we are updating our transparency reporting to detail these types of requests.”

The Justice Department did not respond to messages seeking comment on the push notification surveillance or whether it had prevented Google from talking to Apple about it. Google did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Wyden’s letter cited a “tip” as the source of information about the surveillance. His staff did not elaborate on the tip, but a source familiar with the matter confirmed that both foreign and US government agencies are asking Apple and Google for metadata related to push notifications, for example, messaging Helping connect anonymous users of apps with specific people. Apple or Google accounts.

The source declined to identify the foreign governments involved in making the request, but described them as democracies affiliated with the United States.

The source said he did not know how long such information had been collected.

Most users think little of push notifications, but they have occasionally attracted the attention of technologists because of the difficulty of deploying them without sending data to Google or Apple.

Earlier this year French developer David Libeau said users and developers are often unaware of how their apps send data to US tech giants through push notifications, calling it a “privacy nightmare”.

(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Stephen Coates)

Source: finance.yahoo.com

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