Foreign governments are requesting push notification data on Apple and Google users, according to a U.S. senator.
Foreign governments are surveilling people through push notifications on Apple and Google devices, according to a letter sent to the Department of Justice by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Wednesday.
In the letter, Wyden urged the DOJ to warn iPhone and Android users that foreign officials have been making requests to access push notification data from phones. Push notifications occur when a phone alerts a user of an action from an app on their device. The practice would be yet another way that foreign governments can request and obtain digital information about users from two of the largest cellphone software companies.
Wyden said that his staff had been investigating the issue since receiving a tip in April 2022. He said he is urging the DOJ to alert the public after Apple and Google told his staff that they were barred by the government from publicly disclosing such information themselves.
“As with all of the other information these companies store for or about their users, because Apple and Google deliver push notification data, they can be secretly compelled by governments to hand over this information,” Wyden wrote in his letter.
That information can include data on push notifications from third-party apps and could be used to reveal unencrypted information on users’ phones.
“In certain instances, they also might also receive unencrypted content, which could range from backend directives for the app to the actual text displayed to a user in an app notification,” Wyden wrote.
Such text could include messages sent via text messaging or other services, which could be useful in surveillance of dissidents or any other target of government tracking.
Wyden is asking the DOJ to change its rules governing the disclosure of these requests by companies like Apple and Google to enable them to publicly report instances of government requests and to aggregate data.