Technology Companies Defying the State By Reporting Law Enforcement Requests

Rebellion is a beautiful thing. Several major technology companies included Apple, Facebook, and Google have decided to notify their users when law enforcement agents request their data:

Major U.S. technology companies have largely ended the practice of quietly complying with investigators’ demands for e-mail records and other online data, saying that users have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.

This increasingly defiant industry stand is giving some of the tens of thousands of Americans whose Internet data gets swept into criminal investigations each year the opportunity to fight in court to prevent disclosures. Prosecutors, however, warn that tech companies may undermine cases by tipping off criminals, giving them time to destroy vital electronic evidence before it can be gathered.

Fueling the shift is the industry’s eagerness to distance itself from the government after last year’s disclosures about National Security Agency surveillance of online services. Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google all are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority, officials at all four companies said. Yahoo announced similar changes in July.

One thing I like about the technology field is that companies and individuals within it tend to have a greater problem with authority than most. Although I would have preferred to see this happen sooner I’m not going to gripe too much. Instead I want to congratulate these companies on doing the right thing.

It’s interesting to see the changes that have rippled through the technology market since Edward Snowden leaked those National Security Agency (NSA) documents. Security and transparency has traditionally been an afterthought for major technology companies but both have gained more prominence since we all learned that the NSA was unlawfully spying on each and every one of us. Google, for example, began encrypting data moving between its data centers. Experts in the security field boycotted the RSA conference because its namesake took $10 million from the NSA to use a knowingly weak random number generator in its BSAFE product. There has also been a race to develop more secure communication devices in an attempt to thwart the NSA surveillance apparatus. Basically the state royally pissed off the technology industry and it is now actively doing what it can to rebel.

I’m proud to work in a field that is actively giving the state a gigantic middle finger. Seeing companies like Apple, Facebook, and Google publicly change their policies to better inform their customers when the state is snooping makes me smile.