Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
Earlier this year, Apple resisted the demands of federal authorities to help open a locked iPhone. In Brazil, Facebookâs WhatsApp declined to provide law enforcement there with information from its messaging service to help criminal investigations.
In each situation, the tech companies said they could not help the authorities because they needed to protect the privacy of their users. Law enforcement officials countered that the tech companies were hindering security efforts.
That same debate about security versus privacy rages on today.
Open Whisper Systems, which makes the popular encryption app Signal, revealed on Tuesday it had received a subpoena earlier this year for subscriber information and other details as part of a federal grand jury investigation in Virginia, write Nicole Perlroth and Katie Benner.
Open Whisper Systems said it does not collect that kind of information from users because that data is encrypted. But the company was barred from saying anything about the situation until now because the subpoena arrived with a gag order, which prevented Open Whisper Systems from making any disclosures to its users. That changed only after a legal challenge lifted part of the gag order.
What Signal experienced is likely to set off more criticism over whether tech companies should help law enforcement by providing user data â and whether they should even talk about it. Brace yourselves.