Thursday, December 7, 2023

Push notification eavesdropping by governments on Apple and Google users: US senator


WASHINGTON: Unidentified states are surveilling cell phone clients by means of their applications' pop-up messages, a US representative cautioned on Wednesday.

Senator Ron Wyden stated in a letter to the Department of Justice that foreign officials were requesting the data from Alphabet's Apple and Google. In spite of the fact that subtleties were scanty, the letter spreads out one more way by which state run administrations can follow cell phones.

Push notifications are used by apps of all kinds to notify smartphone users of new messages, breaking news, and other updates. These are the visual or audible "dings" that users see or hear when they get an email or when their sports team wins a game. Users frequently do not realize that almost all of these notifications travel over the servers of Google and Apple.

That gives the two organizations one of a kind knowledge into the traffic moving from those applications to their clients, and thusly puts them "in a novel situation to work with government observation of how clients are utilizing specific applications," Wyden said. He asked the Department of Justice to "repeal or modify any policies" that made it difficult for people to talk about push notification spying in the public.

Apple said in a statement that Wyden's letter gave them the chance to tell the public more about how governments monitor push notifications.

The company said in a statement, "In this case, the federal government prohibited us from sharing any information." We are updating our transparency reporting to include information regarding requests of this kind now that this method has been made public.

Google said that it shared Wyden's "obligation to keeping clients informed about these solicitations."

The push notification surveillance and the question of whether it had prevented Apple or Google from discussing it were left unanswered by the Department of Justice.

In his letter, Wyden mentioned a "tip" as the source of the surveillance information. His staff didn't expand on the tip, yet a source acquainted with the matter affirmed that both unfamiliar and US government offices have been asking Apple and Google for metadata connected with pop-up messages to, for instance, assist with tieing mysterious clients of informing applications to explicit Apple or Google accounts.

The source described the foreign governments involved in the requests as democracies allied to the United States, but did not specify which ones.

The source claimed that they had no idea how long such data had been collected in that manner.

The majority of users don't give push notifications much thought, but the difficulty of deploying them without sending data to Google or Apple has occasionally drawn the attention of technologists.

David Libeau, a French developer, stated earlier this year that users and developers frequently were unaware of how their apps used push notifications to send data to the US tech giants. He referred to these notifications as "a privacy nightmare."

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