Apple and Google have been subjected to multiple requests from multiple foreign government officials to provide push data information that can be used to spy on individuals.
The companies must comply with these requests and, by law, are not allowed to reveal this surveillance to their customers.
This information came to light when Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon filed a letter with the US Attorney General’s office recently pleading for the Department of Justice to allow Apple and Google to inform customers.
Both Apple and Google utilize push notifications to provide users with alerts when new text messages or new information on applications occur.
These push notifications are brokered through company servers and therefore government officials can compel the companies to turn over the information.
Senator Wyden’s office spoke with company leadership about the process but neither Google nor Apple could reveal the identities of the specific governments demanding the data.
According to the Wyden letter, “The data these two companies receive includes metadata, detailing which app received a notification and when, as well as the phone and associated Apple or Google account to which that notification was intended to be delivered.”
In response, Apple released a statement that said in part, “Now that this method has become public we are updating our transparency reporting to detail these kinds of requests.”
The Attorney General overseeing the Department of Justice who is tasked with facilitating these requests has not yet responded to Wyden’s request to allow Apple and Google to publish statistics related to surveillance requests and to notify individuals who have been targeted by foreign agencies.