Welp, here's another addition to the saga of governments putting their nose into our personal affairs by arm-twisting Big Tech. Duh. If your phone often flashes those pop-ups about a live game score or some amazing, must-buy-now deal alerts, Big Brother might be using it to keep tabs on you.
Oregon's very own Senator Ron Wyden, playing detective, wrote a little note to the Justice Department. He's been on this secret mission for about a year, after getting a tip from who-knows-who. His big ask? Letting Google and Apple spill the beans on this super-secret spy game involving push notifications. Wyden's letter was first reported by Reuters.
Apple, in a shocking twist, admits governments have been using these innocent-looking notifications for spying. They're practically grateful to Wyden for letting them finally talk about it. "Oh, we were dying to tell you, but the government had us in a bind!" said an Apple spokesperson, probably.
Wyden's Sherlock Holmes act reveals that push notifications are not just annoying; they're also sneaky little spies. Wyden highlights in his correspondence that push notifications serve as a tool to glean crucial details, like identifying the specific app they target and pinpointing the Google or Apple account associated with the recipient of these notifications, essentially the user.
In some instances, they can even reveal the text contents of the notifications. How so very privately comforting. And why are Google and Apple in the hot seat? Because, unlike your average app notification, these special push alerts have to take a detour through their servers.
So, obviously, governments just have to nudge these tech giants to get all the goss, with some intimidation, of course. Apple, ever the good citizen, has already admitted in the past it's been helping law enforcement with snitching on user data, as long as it sees all the legal trimmings – subpoenas, court orders, you know, the usual due diligence shizz.
But they were oh-so-sad they couldn't tell us they were spying on us, all because of those pesky government gag rules. Wyden, our hero, wants DOJ to let these companies warn us when our push notifications turn into mini surveillance cameras.
And guess what? It's not just the U.S. getting their hands dirty. Wyden's letter spills the tea on "democracies allied to the United States" also joining the snooping party. How's that for international cooperation?