Apple, Google & Microsoft set to notify users of government data requests

Defying authorities, major companies mark their end of compliance with a bang

Data breach

Privacy policy changes by Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft will see their users notified whenever a government agency requests their data.

All four tech giants are updating their privacy policies to include the types of disclosures they can make to their userbase. Now, whenever a government agency makes a request for a specific person's data, they will be warned in advance.

The technology industry is eager to demonstrate that it is world's apart from the NSA, which has operated surveillance operations on multiple online services. The change in regulations means millions of customers will be able to fight in court to prevent the disclosure of their information.

Google already notifies users of data requests but has updated its policy to include instances where they will be unable to do so, if there is risk to a potential victim, for example.

Apple, Facebook and Microsoft have been working on their own revisions, according to company officials, but have not released specific details.

"Later this month, Apple will update its policies so that in most cases when law enforcement requests personal information about a customer, the customer will receive a notification from Apple," company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.

Prosecutors have warned that tech companies will be undermining the course of justice, giving criminals time to destroy evidence or escape capture. Hitting back, the big four have said they will continue to notify users unless gagged by a judge or major legal body.

The policies do not affect key US data requests, like those from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which are kept top secret by American law.

The new policies will force agencies to weigh up the risks of attempting to gain information digitally. If they push ahead then there is a risk of the target destroying data while going through the courts may land them with only a fixed time period.

Jason Weinstein, former assistant attorney general of the Justice Department, told the Washington Post: "It's sort of a double whammy that makes law enforcement's job harder. It has the potential to significantly impair investigations."

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