The Washington Post reports that Apple (AAPL) is one of several tech companies planning to end the practice of complying with government requests for customer information in the near future, saying that users have a right to know in advance if their e-mail records and other online data is being turned over to officials. According to the Post, Apple will begin notifying any customer whose information is requested by law enforcement later this month.
Microsoft (MSFT), Facebook (FB), and Google (GOOGL) are also pursuing the same policy as Apple, saying that users have a right to know when their information is targeted for government seizure. Yahoo (YHOO) is going to join this policy in July.
The government, obviously, disagrees, arguing that new industry policies could give criminals under investigation time to destroy vital electronic evidence and put potential crime victims in greater peril.
“These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine,” department spokesman Peter Carr told The Post, citing a case in which early disclosure put at risk a cooperative witness in a case. He declined to offer details because the case was under seal.”
The trend toward greater user notification by tech companies gained new urgency after the government surveillance revelations made by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The new trend however, notes 9to5mac’s Mike Beasley, “could end up causing quite a bit of trouble for these companies, as law enforcement….agencies will no doubt attempt to find loopholes that they can exploit to stop companies from carrying out these new policies.”