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Business News/ Technology / News/  Governments 'using push notifications to spy on your iOS, Android devices
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Governments 'using push notifications to spy on your iOS, Android devices

Foreign governments are using the push notification data stored by Apple and Google for spying on the users, US Senator Ron Wyden has argued in a letter written to the Justice Department.

FILE PHOTO: A man poses with an Apple iPhone 12 in a mobile phone store in Nantes, France, September 13, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo (REUTERS)Premium
FILE PHOTO: A man poses with an Apple iPhone 12 in a mobile phone store in Nantes, France, September 13, 2023. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe/File Photo (REUTERS)

US Senator Ron Wyden has said that foreign governments have been requesting push notification data from Google and Apple in order to spy on users. While Wyden did not name the governments using push notification data to spy on users, the US senator did say that the US government has restricted Google and Apple from sharing information on the issue. 

Explaining how push notifications are being used to track users, Wyden said,  "Apple and Google are in a unique position to facilitate government surveillance of how users are using particular apps. 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."

“Because Apple and Google deliver push notification data, they can be secretly compelled by governments to hand over this information." the Senator noted. 

Apple, Google confirm Wyden's assertions:

Apple also confirmed Wyden's assertion that the US government had prohibited the tech companies from sharing any information related to the surveillance issue. In a statement to Reuters, Apple said, "In this case, the federal government prohibited us from sharing any information…Now that this method has become public we are updating our transparency reporting to detail these kinds of requests."

Google also told Reuters that it shared Wyden's "commitment to keeping users informed about these requests."

What's the big deal with push notifications?

Most users pay little attention to the fact that Google and Apple play a crucial role in delivering the 'ding' noises on their smartphones from different types of applications such as news, messages and others. However, most of the data relating to these 'push notifications' has to be transmitted through Google's or Apple's servers before being delivered to the end user, opening up another avenue for user surveillance, Reuters reported.

The Reuters report, while citing a source familiar with the matter, noted that US government agencies had asked Apple and Google for metadata related to push notifications. While declining to identify the foreign governments involved in the surveillance plot, the person noted that democracies allied with the United States have made such requests.

 

 

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Published: 07 Dec 2023, 08:07 AM IST
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