Apple now needs a judge’s order to hand over push notification records

Following the revelation that our mobile push notification records can be handed over to law enforcements, Apple put the blame on the Department of Justice (DOJ) for preventing tech companies from revealing such process. Meanwhile, the company also updated its Legal Process Guidelines document to state that “a subpoena or greater legal process” was required to obtain the relevant records. However, Reuters spotted that a week later, Apple quietly tweaked this particular line to match Google’s stricter policy on this matter:

“The Apple ID associated with a registered APNs token and associated records may be obtained with an order under 18 U.S.C. §2703(d) or a search warrant.”

In other words, law enforcement will now need a judge’s consent in order to obtain push notification data from Apple — as is the case with Google all this time, according to a statement provided to Reuters. Engadget reached out to Apple, but it refused to comment on the updated guidelines.

The “push notification spying” concerns were originally brought to light by Oregon Senator Ron Wyden who, in an open letter to the DOJ, claimed that foreign governments have been demanding Google and Apple to provide push notification records. Given how push notifications go through these companies’ servers, the senator is worried that “Apple and Google are in a unique position to facilitate government surveillance of how users are using particular apps.”

Wyden then addressed the elephant in the room, by arguing that these two tech giants “should be permitted to be transparent about the legal demands they receive, particularly from foreign governments.” Apple’s response regarding the DOJ’s suppression appears to align with the senator’s claims, but it’s unclear whether the department will take action on both tech companies’ stepped-up transparency on push notification surveillance.


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