Foreign governments spying on Apple and Google users through push notifications – US senator.

A U.S. senator warned on Wednesday that Foreign governments are spying on smartphone users via their apps’ push notifications.

A letter from Senator Ron Wyden to the Department of Justice says foreign officials are demanding data from Alphabet’s (GOOGL.O) Google and Apple (AAPL.O).

Users receive push notifications when they receive incoming messages, breaking news, and other updates from apps of all kinds. The users don’t realize that almost all such notifications travel over Google and Apple’s servers, so they often receive audible “dings” or visual indicators when they receive an email or their sports team wins a game.

Wyden said the two companies have unique insight into the traffic flowing from those apps to their users, which puts them in a unique position to facilitate government surveillance of how users use those apps. To avoid public discussion of push notification spying, he asked the Justice Department to “repeal or modify any policies” that hindered it.

Apple said Wyden’s letter gave them the opportunity to share more details about how governments monitor push notifications with the public.

The federal government prohibited us from sharing any information in this case, the company said. “Now that this method has become public, we are updating our transparency reporting.”

Wyden’s “commitment to keeping users informed” was shared by Google.

Apple and Google declined to comment on the push notification surveillance or whether the Department of Justice had prevented them from talking about it.

Information about the surveillance was sourced from a “tip” in Wyden’s letter. Although his staff did not elaborate on the tip, a source familiar with the matter confirmed that both foreign and U.S. government agencies have been requesting metadata on push notifications from Apple and Google, for example, to assist in tying anonymous users to specific Apple or Google accounts.

As allied democracies, the source declined to identify the foreign governments making the requests.

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