“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,” Craig Timberg reports for The Washington Post.

“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,” Timberg reports. “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,” Timberg reports. “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.”

“As this position becomes uniform across the industry, U.S. tech companies will ignore the instructions stamped on the fronts of subpoenas urging them not to alert subjects about data requests, industry lawyers say,” Timberg reports. “Companies that already routinely notify users have found that investigators often drop data demands to avoid having suspects learn of inquiries. ‘It serves to chill the unbridled, cost-free collection of data,’ said Albert Gidari Jr., a partner at Perkins Coie who represents several technology companies. ‘And I think that’s a good thing.’”

Timberg reports, “The Justice Department disagrees, saying in a statement that new industry policies threaten investigations and put potential crime victims in greater peril.”

MacDailyNews Take: Blah, blah, blah. How’d you catch criminals before the Internet, geniuses?

Timberg reports, “The changing tech company policies do not affect data requests approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which are automatically kept secret by law. National security letters, which are administrative subpoenas issued by the FBI for national security investigations, also carry binding gag orders… ‘Later this month, Apple will update its policies so that in most cases when law enforcement requests personal information about a customer, the customer will receive a notification from Apple,’ company spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said.”

“The changing legal standards of technology companies most directly affect federal, state and local criminal investigators, who have found that companies increasingly balk at data requests once considered routine,” Timberg reports. “Most now refuse to disclose the contents of e-mails or social media posts when presented with subpoenas, insisting that the government instead seek search warrants, which are issued only by judges and require the stricter legal standard of probable cause… Ronald T. Hosko, a former FBI special agent who until his recent retirement oversaw the criminal division at the Washington field office, said the development of cases has been hurt by the threat of user notification, especially during early phases when investigators try to work discreetly, before a suspect potentially can destroy evidence. ‘My fear is that we will be less secure in our country, in our houses, because of political decisions, because of the politics of the day, rather than what will keep us safe,’ Hosko said.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: A step in the right direction. The DOJ should take a breather and read the U.S. Constitution. There’s a first time for everything.

Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. – Benjamin Franklin, Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. – Ronald Reagan, March 30, 1961

Visit the Apple-backed reformgovernmentsurveillance.com today.

[Thanks to MacDailyNews readers too numerous to mention individually for the heads up.]

Related articles:
US NSA used Facebook to hack into computers – March 12, 2014
Rand Paul: ‘What you do on your cellphone is none of their damned business!’ – March 8, 2014
U.S. NSA watching, tracking phone users with Google Maps – January 28, 2014
Apple issues update on U.S. NSA and law enforcement orders – January 27, 2014
Obama’s NSA proposals fall far short of real change – January 17, 2014
U.S. NSA devises radio pathway into computers to conduct surveillance, launch cyberattacks – January 15, 2014
The NSA, Apple’s iPhone and a whole lot of bad reporting – January 8, 2014
U.S. NSA seeks to build quantum computer to crack most types of encryption – January 3, 2014
Ex-NSA chief calls for Obama to reject commission’s recommendations to rein in NSA surveillance – December 30, 2013
How the U.S. NSA remotely bugs your Apple iPhone – December 30, 2013
Report: U.S. NSA intercepts computers during shipping to install surveillance malware – December 30, 2013
U.S. NSA uses Google cookies to pinpoint targets for hacking – December 11, 2013
Apple, Google, others call for government surveillance reform – December 9, 2013
U.S. NSA secretly infiltrated Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say – October 30, 2013
Obama administration decides NSA spying is ‘essential,’ but oversight of NSA is not – October 8, 2013
Apple’s iPhone 5s with Touch ID seen as protection against U.S. NSA – September 16, 2013
German government: Windows 8 contains U.S. NSA snooping back doors; too dangerous to use – August 23, 2013
Report: NSA can see 75% of U.S. Web traffic, can snare emails – August 21, 2013
NSA can read email, online chats, track Web browsing without warrant, documents leaked by Edward Snowden show – July 31, 2013
Momentum builds against U.S. government surveillance – July 29, 2013
U.S. House rejects effort to curb NSA surveillance powers, 205-217 – July 24, 2013
Obama administration scrambles to shut down imminent U.S. House vote to defund NSA spying – July 24, 2013
Obama administration demands master encryption keys from firms in order to conduct electronic surveillance against Internet users – July 24, 2013
Apple, Google, dozens of others push Obama administration to disclose U.S. surveillance requests – July 19, 2013
Secret court agrees to allow Yahoo to reveal its fight against U.S. government PRISM requests – July 16, 2013
How Microsoft handed U.S. NSA, FBI, CIA access to users’ encrypted video, audio, and text communications – July 11, 2013
DuckDuckGo search engine surges 33% in wake of PRISM scandal – June 20, 2013
Yahoo: Since December 2012, we have received up to 13,000 U.S. gov’t requests for customer data – June 18, 2013
Apple: Since December 2012, we have received U.S. gov’t requests for customer data for up to 10,000 accounts – June 17, 2013
Nine companies, including Apple, tied to PRISM, Obama to be smacked with class-action lawsuit – June 12, 2013
U.S. lawmakers urge review of ‘Prism’ domestic spying, Patriot Act – June 10, 2013
PRISM: Do Apple, Google, Facebook have an ethical obligation not to spy on users? – June 8, 2013
Plausible deniability: The strange and unbelievable similarities in the Apple, Google, and Facebook PRISM denials – June 7, 2013
Google’s Larry Page on government eavesdropping: ‘We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday’ – June 7, 2013
Seecrypt app lets iPhone, Android users keep voice calls, text messages away from carriers, government eyes and ears – June 7, 2013
Obama administration defends PRISM data-collection as legal anti-terrorism tool – June 7, 2013
Facebook, Google, Yahoo join Apple in sort-of denying PRISM involvement – June 7, 2013
Report: Intelligence program gives U.S. government direct access to customer data on Apple servers; Apple denies – June 6, 2013