Even without the ability to legally request the content of messages from WhatsApp, the metadata WhatsApp provides to law enforcement collects which users are talking to each other, when they do so, and what other users they have in their address book. Sharing this data can have serious consequences for people looking for truly safe and anonymous messages, such as journalists working with a confidential source or activists threatened and punished by the government. If users think that the encrypted apps they use don`t store much information about them, the FBI graph shows that this belief is largely false. With a few exceptions, many major E2EE messaging services transmit all sorts of data to federal law enforcement, and cloud backups can even allow for the disclosure of stored messages sent to two of the largest E2EE messaging apps. Even if little or nothing of what`s in the document is really new, it`s still helpful to see it so concisely on a single page. If you`re concerned about information privacy, use this spreadsheet (as well as privacy and security guides specific to your situation, such as journalism or protests) to decide which app is best for you — and share it with the people you`re chatting with, too. That way, you can make a more informed decision about which apps to keep (and which to leave behind) when we start the new year. An Apple spokesperson declined to comment on the recording, referring Rolling Stone to Apple`s legal process guidelines, which outline the types of data the company shares with law enforcement in certain circumstances. There are several messaging apps listed in the FBI document for which law enforcement has minimal data at their disposal without the actual device in hand. Signal only shows the date and time a person signed up for the app and the date the user last signed in to the app. Wickr will provide law enforcement data on the device using the app when someone creates their account, as well as basic subscriber information, but no detailed metadata, the FBI document says.
WhatsApp did not give details on how it works with law enforcement, other than that there are channels to do so. The company`s spokesperson also did not confirm or deny that it had ever handed over news content to a global government, but reiterated that this is not possible now that end-to-end encryption has been fully deployed on its 1 billion users. He confirmed that government data was included in Facebook`s transparency report, but did not provide details. A WhatsApp spokeswoman confirmed the company`s real-time responses to a pen registry. However, the spokeswoman added that the FBI document omits important contexts, such as pen logs for WhatsApp do not provide actual content of the message and only apply prospectively and not retroactively. The spokeswoman said the company uses end-to-end encryption for the content of users` messages, meaning law enforcement cannot directly access that content, and defended this encryption of messages in courts around the world. “We carefully review, validate and respond to requests from law enforcement authorities on the basis of applicable law and are aware of this on our website and in regular transparency reports,” the spokeswoman said. The FBI document, she added, “shows what we said — that law enforcement doesn`t need to break end-to-end encryption to successfully investigate crimes.” While this misconception may help law enforcement investigators, it can have significant implications for their objectives. Not only garden criminals, but also journalists and their sources, whistleblowers and activists have a lot to do with their choice of communication service. As mentioned in Rolling Stone`s article on the FBI graph, WhatsApp metadata played a key role in the arrest and conviction of Natalie Edwards, a former U.S. Treasury official who leaked internal documents to a reporter with whom she exchanged hundreds of messages via WhatsApp. Edwards (and probably the journalist who owed Edwards an ethical duty to protect sources) believed that WhatsApp was safe for communication between journalists and sources.
This misunderstanding cost Edwards his freedom. The Jan. 7, 2021 document is an internal FBI guide to the types of data state and federal law enforcement agencies can request from nine of the largest messaging apps. Legal experts and technologists who reviewed the FBI document say it is rare to obtain such detailed information about law enforcement`s access to courier services, from the government`s perspective. “I`m following these things very closely and working on these issues,” said Andrew Crocker, senior counsel on the Electronic Frontier Foundation`s civil rights team. “I don`t think I saw that information that way, certainly not from a law enforcement perspective.” The graph also shows details that app makers don`t talk about openly, if at all, in their publicly available enforcement policies. With a warrant, WhatsApp will disclose which WhatsApp users have the target user in their address books, which is not mentioned on WhatsApp`s law enforcement information page. And Apple will give iMessage searches to and from the destination number for 25 days, whether a conversation took place or not, which is outlined in Apple`s enforcement guidelines, but has to dig a little deeper to figure it out, because neither the FBI nor Apple explain what that means in plain language. In all cases, the Company publishes a list of its other users who have the contact information of the target user, whether the target has communicated with them or not. (If other email services disclose similar information, this is not reflected in the graph.) These details underscore the broad scope of the U.S. Electronic Surveillance Act, which allows investigators to request “records or other information about a [target] participant” in response to a 2703(d) search order or warrant. While Apple and Meta have both fought against the government`s exaggerated demands for user privacy, the law still makes a lot of user data fair play.
WhatsApp is a fast, easy, and reliable way to talk to anyone in the world. More than 1 billion people in more than 180 countries use WhatsApp to stay in touch with friends and family anytime, anywhere. Not only is WhatsApp free, but it is also available on multiple mobile devices and in areas with low connectivity, making it accessible and reliable everywhere. It`s an easy and safe way to share your favorite moments, send important information, or meet a friend. WhatsApp helps people connect and share, wherever they are in the world. We are looking for a motivated, well-organized, detail-oriented candidate with impeccable judgment as a law enforcement and security specialist. You need to be flexible to adapt to changing priorities, business and organizational requirements. In addition, you need to be able to work independently in a fast-paced, small but growing environment and proactively collaborate with diverse teams within the organization, including business, products, customer support, communications, policy, and growth. And that imbalance raises questions about law enforcement complaints about secure, encrypted messaging apps that affect their ability to investigate crimes. The ACLU`s Wessler says the FBI`s “lawful access” should serve as a reality check the next time police officers or FBI officials insist encrypted messages are hindering their work. “As we can see, [these complaints] are completely exaggerated and are not representative of the amount of information they continue to have access to, even from these encrypted communication platforms,” he says.
What user data can U.S. federal law enforcement agencies obtain from encrypted email service providers? A recent Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) document from January 2021 provides a concise summary of nine different “secure messaging” applications.