Apple will need court order from govts to give phone push notifications

San Francisco: Apple will now require law enforcement agencies to obtain a court order before it hands over details of customers’ push notifications.

Apple has updated its guidelines for law enforcement agencies, saying that search warrants and court orders are now required for it to give up “The Apple ID associated with” an Apple Push Notification Service token.

“The Apple ID associated with a registered Apple Push Notification Service (APNs) token and associated records may be obtained with an order under 18 U.S.C. §2703(d) or a search warrant,” the company said in the update.

Push notifications are the instant alerts delivered to smartphone users by apps, such as a notification about a new text message or a news update. They aren’t sent directly from the app provider to users’ smartphones. Google already have a policy to require court orders in place.

Last week, US Senator Ron Wyden warned in a letter written to the Justice Department that some unidentified governments around the world are spying on Apple and Google phone users through their push notifications. The letter said that his office received a tip in 2022 that government agencies in foreign countries were demanding smartphone “push” notification records from Google and Apple.

“My staff have been investigating this tip for the past year, which included contacting Apple and Google. In response to that query, the companies told my staff that information about this practice is restricted from public release by the government,” the letter further read.

A Google spokesperson told TechCrunch last week that the company shares Wyden’s “commitment to keeping users informed about these requests.”

“We were the first major company to publish a public transparency report sharing the number and types of government requests for user data we receive, including the requests referred to by Senator Wyden,” according to Google.

According to Apple, when users allow an application they have installed to receive push notifications, an APNs token is generated and registered to that developer and device. “Some apps may have multiple APNs tokens for one account on one device to differentiate between messages and multi-media,” according to the company.


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