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They won't stay silent: Apple, Facebook say they will let users know if personal data snatched

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
5/5/2014 (2 years ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Prosecutors say this will compromise criminal investigations

In what some will see as a welcome response to the National Security agency scandal, Apple, Facebook, and other major U.S. technology companies say they will no longer hand over users' private information to federal investigators. They say that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.

Many tech companies once followed a similar model of quietly cooperating with law enforcement. Courts, meanwhile, ruled that it was sufficient for the government to notify the providers of Internet services of data requests, rather than the affected customers.

Many tech companies once followed a similar model of quietly cooperating with law enforcement. Courts, meanwhile, ruled that it was sufficient for the government to notify the providers of Internet services of data requests, rather than the affected customers.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
5/5/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Apple, Facebook, data, federal investigations


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Tens of thousands of Americans have their Internet data dragged into criminal investigations annually. Prosecutors complain that this practice may undermine cases by alerting criminals, who seize the chance to destroy incriminating data.

Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.

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It's the start of a trend to insure Americans' right to privacy. U.S. tech companies will henceforth disregard the instructions stamped on the fronts of subpoenas urging them not to alert subjects about data requests. Companies which already routinely notify users have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries.

"It serves to chill the unbridled, cost-free collection of data," Albert Gidari Jr., a partner at Perkins Coie who represents several technology companies says. "And I think that's a good thing."

The Justice Department disagrees vehemently disagrees. They say this practice puts potential crime victims in greater peril.

"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.

The changing tech company policies do not affect data requests approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which are automatically kept secret by law. National security letters, which are administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI for national security investigations, also carry binding gag orders.

The U.S. government has previously notified people directly affected by searches and seizures - though often not immediately - when investigators entered a home or tapped a phone line. This practice has not carried over into the digital world. Cellular carriers such as AT&T and Verizon typically do not tell customers when investigators collect their call data.

Many tech companies once followed a similar model of quietly cooperating with law enforcement. Courts, meanwhile, ruled that it was sufficient for the government to notify the providers of Internet services of data requests, rather than the affected customers.

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