Washington Renews Apple Inquiry Regarding Trump-Era Subpoenas: Bloomberg

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  • Washington has renewed Apple Inc AAPL probe regarding compliance with secret Trump-era subpoenas for user data on over 100 users, including U.S. lawmakers, Bloomberg reports.
  • Lawmakers will investigate giant tech companies' response mode to subpoenas for information on their customers, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff said.
  • Schiff had infuriated former President Donald Trump with congressional investigations regarding his government's Russian links.
  • The House Judiciary Committee announced an investigation into the Justice Department's (DOJ) surveillance of Congress members, journalists, and others to eliminate media leaks. The Senate Judiciary Committee will also look into the matter.
  • Technology companies have already faced flak for their economic power, privacy policies, and role in public discourse.
  • Policymakers have now widened focus on risks regarding user data disclosed by tech companies when served with subpoenas.
  • The DOJ is already investigating Apple's app store practices that Congress has also questioned.
  • Last month Apple disclosed that Democratic Representatives Schiff and Eric Swalwell and House Intelligence Committee staff's user information were the subjects of a gag order that expired after being renewed three times. Apple also intimated former White House counsel Don McGahn last month regarding his user information disclosure in response to a subpoena. 
  • Apple provided metadata and subscriber information.
  • Microsoft Corp MSFT admitted to a similar subpoena and gag order.
  • Alphabet Inc GOOG GOOGL Google often tried to narrow the government request for user data and occasionally resisted providing any information. Google received 15,537 subpoenas in the U.S. in the first six months of 2020.
  • Schiff wanted to analyze companies' response to subpoenas for different users like corporate clients, average citizens and Congress members, nondisclosure orders, and tech practices.
  • The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protected against searches and seizures without a warrant, tech and privacy expert Julian Sanchez said. Therefore, Sanchez sought higher standards for procuring subpoenas and obtaining such personal data as turning over the time, date, and length of calls and texts without the content could also reveal critical information about a user's activity.
  • Microsoft CLO Brad Smith urged lawmakers to limit the gag orders that prevent them from disclosing user when law enforcement seek their information. Microsoft also won a case against the DOJ, which agreed to scale back the gag order practices.
  • Price action: AAPL shares traded lower by 0.06% at $130.40 in the premarket session on the last check Tuesday.
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