Unidentified Governments Spying on People Via Push Notifications

Unidentified governments request “push notification” metadata, while Apple and Google silenced by DoJ on their cooperation.

February 26, 2024

By: Bobby Casey, Managing Director GWP

unidentified governmentsGeorge Carlin once said: “When fascism comes to the United States, it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jackboots. It’ll be Nike Sneakers and Smiley shirts.” Inspired by that, Jonah Goldberg wrote a book called “Happy Fascism”, which explained how fascism’s core isn’t in the militant presentation, but rather in the pragmatic alliance between private enterprise and governments.

You could easily replace “pragmatic” with “unholy” in this case because that’s closer to what it means in application. Whenever you see terms like “Industrial Complex” you can rest assured it is fascistic.

Former US President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned of the Military Industrial Complex. Today, the US looks for wars just to keep these publicly traded weapons manufacturers in business because everyone has so much stock in them that if the wars stopped, the markets would collapse.

The same can be said of US “private prisons”. They need to stay at a certain capacity to stay open. Their only client is government.

Another euphemism for a fascistic connection is when the word “Big” is used in conjunction with an industry. Some examples might be “Big Pharma” or “Big Ag”. These are captured industries that are so hyper-regulated they’ve become indemnified from consequences. They serve the masses to such a degree that we cannot afford for them to buckle under the consequences of the misdeeds.

The more recent sectors are the Main Stream Media and “Big Tech”.

The involvement of government in controlling the information disseminated — more accurately called censorship — has likely tipped the scales in elections.

The involvement of government in collecting information — more accurately called surveillance — continues despite the revelations of Edwards Snowden over ten years ago.

For a brief moment, people were indignant that the government was tracking the metadata of its own citizens. The NSA was told to stop. It said, “Sure,” and continued for many years later. They pretended to backed off some, only to find out they just rerouted.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden wrote a letter to the Attorney General’s office demanding more transparency regarding the data being collected by governments.

That’s right: governments — PLURAL. And, no, it’s not talking about federal, state, and local. It’s talking about various countries’ governments.

These governments are seeking data from the cloud and operating system providers: mainly Apple and Google. They are tracking your push notifications. They aren’t getting it from the apps themselves, nor the phone company… rather from the OS.

Here are some topline numbers on the current duopoly:

  • In the US, iPhone has a 57.93% market share; while Android has 41.64%
  • Aside from the US, iPhone also leads in Japan (68.86%), Canada (60.31%), Australia (59.63%), and the United Kingdom (52.29%).
  • As of 2023, Android has a 70.29% global market share.
  • In India, Android’s market share is a staggering 95.16%. Google’s OS also has a sharp edge in Brazil (81.45%), Mexico (77.46%), and China (74.76%).

Senator Wyden described the issue in his letter to the DoJ:

In the spring of 2022, my office received a tip that government agencies in foreign countries were demanding smartphone “push” notification records from Google and Apple. My staff have been investigating this tip for the past year, which included contacting Apple and Google. In response to that query, the companies told my staff that information about this practice is restricted from public release by the government.

Push notifications are a feature nearly everyone who uses apps receives. When you get an email or a text, or when someone reacts to your posts, or even when you are notified that someone is “marked safe” or at a particular restaurant, these alerts go from the app, to the OS server, then to your phone.

These governments are tapping into that middle stage, meaning they get your notification before you do, technically.

The story is out there but made few waves. Reuters broke this back in December 2023, and there appears to be much more to the story than the top brass are willing to disclose.

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

We don’t know much about the “tip” Wyden’s office was operating off of, “but a source familiar with the matter confirmed that both foreign and U.S. government agencies have been asking Apple and Google for metadata related to push notifications to, for example, help tie anonymous users of messaging apps to specific Apple or Google accounts.”

While that source did not know for how long this particular method of information gathering has been happening they do know which foreign governments are requesting this data. Unfortunately, they declined to identify them. They simply “described them as democracies allied to the United States”.

As with any form of metadata, our interactions with others are being monitored en masse. It used to be that in order for the government to inspect people they needed probable cause, a warrant, and a particular thing they were searching for. Due process has become a slalom for congress to weave around. Sometimes they ding a flag, sometimes they don’t.

When you have a bottomless purse, you have the resources to throw an infinite amount of spaghetti at the wall. Anything that sticks is considered a win. So while you have many legal and watchdog institutions tirelessly battling this onslaught of tyranny, it’s not enough to catch it all. This is especially true when the Department of Justice is running cover for it.

Look. I’m a digital nomad. I’m not saying we all need to go back to some primitive way of life. A digital life, a virtual business, these are fixtures in humanity now. It’s less about getting away from it, and more about learning to navigate it and stay ahead of it.

I’ve written multiple installments on the various ways government is violating our privacy with its ever expanding surveillance state. These aren’t updates on the same thing. These are each unique things happening. It’s a lot. The point is to keep people aware and apprised of what’s happening, and encourage a vigilant march forward. Harnessing encryption and protection mechanisms is something we owe ourselves.

So whether you’re getting a VPN, an LLC, or an offshore trust, you’re taking measures to create deterrents against these types of intrusions. It’s not perfect, but neither is a lock on your door… you still lock it right?

Click here to get a copy of our offshore banking report, or here to become a member of our Insider program, where you are eligible for free consultations, deep discounts on corporate and trust services, plus a host of information about internationalizing your business, wealth and life.

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