Law enforcement authorities can use warrants in other ways as well. Police issued warrants to Google for all devices that were in the vicinity of where a crime was committed.
Businesses sometimes say work with the police to refine their requests companies therefore only transmit information that is relevant to a case.
How often do authorities get this data from tech companies?
Apple said that in the first half of 2020, the latest available period, it received more than 5,850 requests from U.S. authorities for data relating to 18,600 accounts. It provided baseline data in 43% of those requests and actual content data, such as emails or photos, in 44% of requests.
Microsoft said it received 5,500 requests from US law enforcement during the same time period, covering 17,700 accounts, and transmitted basic data to 54% of requests and content to 15% of requests.
Google said it received 39,500 requests in the United States during that period, covering nearly 84,700 accounts, and passed some data 83% of the time. Google did not break down the percentage of requests in which it turned over basic data versus content, but it said 39% of requests were subpoenas while half were search warrants.
Facebook said it received 61,500 requests in the United States during the period, covering 106,100 accounts, and forwarded some data to 88% of requests. The company said it received 38,850 warrants and complied with 89% of them during the period, and 10,250 subpoenas and complied with 85%.
In these cases, US authorities include any federal, state, or local law enforcement office.
Do companies ever resist these demands?
Yes. Companies say they sometimes delay subpoenas, court orders and warrants if they believe officials lack the proper legal authority or if requests are too broad.