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Tech Companies Refusing To Keep Quiet On Subpoenas

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The low level griping about law enforcement subpoenas requesting user information and instructing companies to not tell the subjects of the subpoenas has burst into full fledged rebellion.

From 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. 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.

Now Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Google have joined Yahoo in saying they will notify anyone whose accounts are the subject of an investigative diploma unless they receive a judicial gag order.

As citizens rely more and more on technology to communicate and store personal information, the abusive use of investigative subpoenas has become  endemic. Often investigators request enormous amounts of information and bully ISPs, etc., into keeping quiet about the subpoena denying the subject the opportunity to challenge the request in court.

As the Post notes:

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. 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.”

Naturally, the government is not amused that their backdoor to the Fourth Amendment has been taken away.

“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 said, 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.

In other words, its secret and if I told you I’d have to kill you.

It is a sad state of affairs when we’ve come to the point that law enforcement is no longer assumed to be acting in good faith and the abuse is so widespread that virtually all the major technology players have ceased cooperation.

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