US senator says multiple governments are tracking you through push notifications

Joel Loynds
us flag with iphone & samsung phone overlayed with zipped lipped emoji

A US senator has discovered a major issue with tracking users through Apple and Google devices, and it goes deeper than originally thought.

US Senator Ron Wyden has discovered through a tip that the US government and other foreign governments are spying on phone users. It isn’t done directly on the device, however. Instead, Apple and Google have developers send the information to a server, which will then send out the push notifications.

This is used by almost every developer who has an app that allows for push notifications. The idea is that these notifications can reveal location data, among others.

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Any foreign governments also using this data are assumed to be allied with the US. However, after a year of investigation, Wyden’s team has also discovered something much worse.

The information has been withheld due to a gag order placed on Apple and Google by the United States government.

US government had a gag order on Google & Apple to hide push notification spying

Apple iPhone 14 in Blue colorApple

In a letter to the Department of Justice, Wyden now wants Google and Apple to be able to discuss this information publicly:

“These companies should be permitted to generally reveal whether they have been compelled to facilitate this surveillance practice, to publish aggregate statistics about the number of demands they receive, and unless temporarily gagged by a court, to notify specific customers about demands for their data.”

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Since the letter was made public, Apple has come forward with a statement. As reported by Reuters, an Apple spokesperson said:

“In this case, the federal government prohibited us from sharing any information.

“Now that this method has become public we are updating our transparency reporting to detail these kinds of requests.”

Google has also stated something similar, with the same report adding that the search engine giant is committed “to keeping users informed about these requests.”

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It’s yet to be seen whether the Department of Justice will allow the gag order to be released, but it’s probably a long road from here.

It’s not often you find legitimate news being first heard on TikTok. It’s also doubly weird it hasn’t come from a Spongebob fish.

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About The Author

E-Commerce Editor. You can get in touch with him over email: joel.loynds@dexerto.com. He's written extensively about video games and tech for over a decade for various sites. Previously seen on Scan, WePC, PCGuide, Eurogamer, Digital Foundry and Metro.co.uk. A deep love for old tech, bad games and even jankier MTG decks.