Facebook, Google and more: users will be notified of data requests

In a move that butts heads with government agencies, Facebook, Google, Apple and Microsoft have revealed plans to notify their users when a data request comes in for their information. The move aims to benefit users, but critics worry it could tip off criminals.

The information comes from The Washington Post, which reports that officials with all four companies have revealed the plans. Users of the services have the right to know when their accounts become the target of government prying, they say, and they'll be updating their privacy policies to reflect this.

The only instance in which users will not be given a heads up about a government data request will be when a gag order or such is issued by a judge or agency. Prosecutors have still expressed concern, however, saying such notifications could give criminals the chance to purge evidence.

The practice could have the effect of decreasing the number of data requests that are made, with investigators choosing to avoid potential tip-offs to subjects. The Justice Department doesn't have a favorable view of the policy change, however, with one spokesman saying, "These risks of endangering life, risking destruction of evidence, or allowing suspects to flee or intimidate witnesses are not merely hypothetical, but unfortunately routine."

SOURCE: Washington Post