Google, Facebook and Apple to alert users when governments want access to their data

2 May 2014

In what appears to be an increasing effort from major tech companies to protect individuals’ privacy online, Google, Facebook and Apple have agreed to alert users when a government agency wants to access their data.

After the companies were criticised for allowing people’s data and information to be shared with the US National Security Agency (NSA), the tech industry has been working to change its image to one that encourages privacy and, according to The Washington Post, will now alert users with a pop-up notification.

This decision goes against what is stamped on the front of subpoenas, which urges tech companies not to alert subjects about data requests, according to the industry’s lawyers.

From experience, companies who are already alerting users of data requests have found government investigators are more likely to drop a data request because of a fear the person they are investigating will get wind of the surveillance.

The US Department of Justice is none too pleased with the industry’s position on data privacy, and has warned tech companies their actions will allow criminals to escape investigation.

“These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine,” said Peter Carr, a department spokesman.

Privacy online image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic