Tech Companies Increasingly Refusing to Keep Government Searches Secret

Big firms join Twitter in letting customers know about subpoenas


It's a small start, but it's a start nevertheless. A handful of tech companies are now refusing to stay quiet and simply report mass data about government investigators' demands for data through subpoenas. They are now letting their customers know about certain requests for user data. From The Washington Post:

Major U.S. technology companies have largely ended the practice of quietly complying with investigators' demands for e-mail records and other online data, saying that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.

This increasingly defiant industry stand is giving some of the tens of thousands of Americans whose Internet data gets swept into criminal investigations each year the opportunity to fight in court to prevent disclosures. Prosecutors, however, warn that tech companies may undermine cases by tipping off criminals, giving them time to destroy vital electronic evidence before it can be gathered.

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.

What's Not Covered

Despite the invocation of the NSA, note that the companies will comply with judicial gag orders. This means that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court decisions that have allowed for mass collection of user metadata and any info demanded by a secretive National Security Letter will not be released. Any targets of those sorts of data requests will still not be informed.

The Washington Post notes that Twitter has always been an industry leader in this area. The company has refused for years to keep subpoenas for data secret from its users. Now Google, Apple, Facebook and Microsoft are joining them.

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  1. Good for them. It’s the right decision.

    1. Problem is the tech companies still fully intend to hand over all data on individuals and stay quiet about it whenever they are ordered to do so. “Any targets of those sorts of data requests will still not be informed.” And what amounts to “probable cause” triggering a court order resulting in a “data request? Who knows, that’s seldom ever for we little people to know. It could easily be as little as posting a comment on Reason.

  2. A small step in the right decision. Long-term, the best safeguard for all new tech companies is to operate anonymously. Not necessarily because they’re doing anything illegal, but because tying a meatspace identity to your online presence only has downsides.

  3. The representative of Brazil warmly welcomed by world yellow, green and white composition of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, the main colors of the emblem . It consists of three symbolic victory gesture also means that the relationship between people. Brazil 2014 World Cup emblem flag basically mimics the Gold Cup in the shape of the top of the Golden Globes together surrounded by the three hands . Three representatives of the three colors of the flag by the Brazilian flag and the Brazilian national team , “with a green and yellow belt material . Word ” 2014 “as the passion for red , yellow , and green primary colors warm welcome on behalf of the world to participate in Brazil ‘s victory symbolic gesture , but it also means mutual communication between people.

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