"Push Notifications," surveillence, and law enforcement

Or “Yet another way your cell phone is probably worse than you thought.”

Some stuff went around in December regarding push notifications, and it’s come up again.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2024/02/29/push-notification-surveillance-fbi/ / https://archive.ph/ktvJN is a recent article on it, talking about some of the usefulness of this technique.

Of course, this should be gated by something robust, like, say, court orders and such, right? Right?

Back in December, Wired had a writeup on the problem: Police Can Spy on Your iOS and Android Push Notifications | WIRED


Anyway. “Push notifications considered harmful.” You may want to disable them. It seems that turning them off in each app that uses them is probably better than the global setting, it’s unclear as to if the phone filtering them still allows them to be generated and sent and then mutes them at the phone end.

Or, just run a device that doesn’t support them. I believe GrapheneOS is one that doesn’t support the normal push notifications route these days, and of course flip phones don’t support that crap either!

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Won’t UnifiedPush partially resolve this for apps that support it?


While Ntfy is probably enough popular that I wouldn’t be surprised if the official instance was getting law enforcement requests, it can be selfhosted and there are also Nextcloud plugin and XMPP (mod_unifiedpush for Prosody, and some separate service that speaks with XMPP server) based solutions amongst others.

I’m not familiar with that - how usable is it for a typical end user who isn’t custom compiling all their apps?

Well it depends on the app as that must support it and generally on the first launch the app just asks how the user wants the pushes offering either Google (unless the app is installed from F-Droid) or list of the UnifiedPush apps on device. For example FluffyChat Matrix client documentation (disclaimer: I am moderator there)

The UnifiefPush website would probably also give better explanations than me having morning coffee :sweat_smile: