Apple now requires a judge’s order to hand over your push notification data

Last week, we reported on how US government agencies have been asking Apple and Google for metadata related to push notifications, but the companies aren’t allowed to tell users about it happening.

The content of the notifications is diverse. It ranges from a weather app warning you about rain to an alert that you have new mail, which often included the subject line and the sender. Other notifications include alerts from your bank about major changes in your balance, breaking news from your news app, or DM notifications on a social media platform.

Not all of them are equally important or sensitive, but Apple and Google acknowledged receiving such requests. Now Apple is making a stand.

Apple’s now changed its legal process guidelines so that it now requires a judge’s order to hand over information about its customers’ push notifications to law enforcement.

“When users allow an application they have installed to receive push notifications, an Apple Push Notification Service (APNs) token is generated and registered to that developer and device. Some apps may have multiple APNs tokens for one account on one device to differentiate between messages and multi-media.

The Apple ID associated with a registered APNs token and associated records may be obtained with an order under 18 U.S.C. §2703(d) (Required disclosure of customer communications or records) or a search warrant.”

Senator Wyden, who last week urged the Department of Justice (DOJ) to “permit Apple and Google to inform their customers and the general public about demands for smartphone app notification records,” said on the latest developments:

“Apple is doing the right thing by matching Google and requiring a court order to hand over push notification related data.”

Disabling notifications

If you want to trim the number of notifications, here is what you can do.

On Android devices open your Settings app and click on Notifications. In the dropdown menu, tap All apps. Here you can turn the app’s notifications on or off. There could be slight variations due to Android version and phone vendors. (The path may be slightly dfferent depending on the make and model of your Android device).

On iPhones and iPads open the Settings app and click on Notifications. You’ll see a list of apps that are allowed to show push notifications. To disable them, you need to click on the individual app in that list and disable notifications (turn the slider from green to grey).

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Pieter Arntz

Malware Intelligence Researcher

Was a Microsoft MVP in consumer security for 12 years running. Can speak four languages. Smells of rich mahogany and leather-bound books.