US Senator accuses several world leaders of spying on Apple, Google users through notifications

Several governments across the world are conducting surveillance on Apple and Google smartphone users through push notifications on various apps US Senator Ron Wyden

US Senator Ron Wyden issued a warning about unidentified governments conducting surveillance on smartphone users through push notifications on various apps.

In a letter addressed to the Department of Justice, Wyden highlighted that foreign officials were compelling Alphabet’s Google and Apple to provide data.

While the details remain scarce, the letter outlines a new avenue through which governments can monitor smartphone activity.

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Push notifications are used by a variety of apps to alert users to incoming messages, news updates, and other information. These notifications typically travel through Google and Apple’s servers, offering the companies unique insights into the data flow between apps and users.

Senator Wyden expressed concern about the potential for government surveillance facilitated by these tech giants and called on the Department of Justice to reconsider or modify any policies hindering public discussions on this form of spying.

In response, Apple acknowledged Wyden’s letter and stated that it would use the opportunity to share more details with the public about how governments monitor push notifications.

The company mentioned that federal restrictions had previously prevented them from sharing such information but committed to updating their transparency reporting in light of the revelations.

Google also expressed support for keeping users informed about government requests related to push notifications.

The Department of Justice declined to comment on the matter or disclose whether it had imposed restrictions on Apple or Google regarding the disclosure of push notification surveillance.

Senator Wyden’s letter was based on a “tip” as the information source, with details indicating that both foreign and US government agencies had sought metadata from Apple and Google, aiming to link anonymous users of messaging apps to specific accounts.

While the foreign governments making these requests were not identified, the source described them as democracies allied with the US.

The extent and duration of such data-gathering methods remain unclear. Although push notifications are often overlooked by users, concerns have been raised about the privacy implications, with some technologists highlighting the challenge of deploying them without transmitting data to major tech companies like Google and Apple.

(With inputs from agencies)

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