Jack Nicas at the New York Times: “The Justice Department, starting in the early days of the Trump administration, secretly sought data from some of the biggest tech companies about journalists, Democratic lawmakers and White House officials as part of wide-ranging investigations into leaks and other matters, The New York Times reported last week.
The revelations, which put the companies in the middle of a clash over the Trump administration’s efforts to find the sources of news coverage, raised questions about what sorts of data tech companies collect on their users, and how much of it is accessible to law enforcement authorities.
Here’s a rundown:
What data do the big tech companies collect and store about their users?
All sorts. Beyond basic data like users’ names, addresses and contact information, tech companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook also often have access to the contents of their users’ emails, text messages, call logs, photos, videos, documents, contact lists and calendars.
Is all of that data available to law enforcement?
Most of it is. But which data law enforcement can get depends on the sort of request they make.
Perhaps the most common and basic request is a subpoena. U.S. government agencies and prosecutors can often issue subpoenas without approval from a judge, and lawyers can issue them as part of open court cases. Subpoenas are often used to cast a wide net for basic information that can help build a case and provide evidence needed to issue more powerful requests….(More)”.