Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Facebook will soon alert users when government agencies request access to their personal data, The Washington Post reports. The move comes as Apple et al. are claiming that customers “have a right to know in advance when their information is targeted for government seizure.”

As such, the four companies “are updating their policies to expand routine notification of users about government data seizures, unless specifically gagged by a judge or other legal authority,” officials told the publication.

The Washington Post rightly adds that Yahoo made a similar move in July.

Apple’s policy changes should be unveiled later this month, according to a company spokesperson. Once amended, the change indeed means that users will be notified in most cases when their data is being examined by a government body, although there will be exceptions. FBI and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court investigations could still see data seized without users knowing.

A spokesperson for Apple said:

Later this month, Apple will update its policies so that in most cases when law enforcement requests personal information about a customer, the customer will receive a notification from Apple.

However, critics of the change feel criminals will be tipped off when warned of government data requests, “giving them time to destroy vital electronic evidence before it can be gathered,” The Washington Post adds.

Back in January, Apple CEO Tim Cook commented in an ABC interview on surveillance in the United States. He said at the time: “I’ve been pushing very, very hard to open the books and be totally transparent. Much of what has been said isn’t true; there is no back door. The government doesn’t have access to our servers. They would have to cart us out in a box for that. And that just will not happen.”

Cook’s comments were made following reports that the National Security Agency (NSA) can intercept iPhone communications through spywarean accusation that Apple promptly rejected.

We’ll keep you updated with further information as we receive it.

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