WhatsApp and iMessage Hand Over the Most Info to FBI, Shows a New Document


There is no shortage of messaging apps available in the market, and one thing that you will see common is that most of the services are big when it comes to talking about security and privacy policies. Now, a newly leaked document has revealed just how much data the FBI can legally obtain from these services. To no one's surprise, WhatsApp and iMessage are on the top.

The document was obtained by Rolling Stone and Property of the People. You can check out the document below. It details exactly what information the bureau can obtain from various messaging apps with a warrant or subpoena. WhatsApp and iMessage are the two apps that provide the most information.

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WhatsApp and iMessage Hands Over the Most Information to the FBI But There is Nothing to Worry About

WhatsApp, iMessage, and Line all provide "limited" message content in response to a legal request. Signal, Telegram, Threema, Viber, WeChat, and Wickr don't disclose any message content.

However, the amount of data that is shared by WhatsApp and iMessage does not stop there, and apparently, "limited" message content is not as innocuous as it may sound to some. Take a look at the document below.

The Meta-owned messaging platform will only provide "basic subscriber records" with a subpoena. Still, a search warrant allows the FBI to grab address book contacts and WhatsApp users who have the target as a contact. A surveillance request known as a pen register will also allow WhatsApp to send the source and destination of the messages to the FBI every 15 minutes, but the message content will remain hidden.

If you are an iPhone user with WhatsApp messages backed up to iCloud, then the FBI can get their hands on the actual message content, as well, as Apple is required to hand over iCloud encryption key if presented with a search warrant.

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On the other hand, iMessage only serves up "basic" subscriber information with a subpoena but will hand over 25 days of iMessage search queries if presented with a court order. Authorities with a search warrant can also make backups of a target's device and see the actual messages if the targeted person is using iCloud backups for iMessage. Apple's service does not offer a surveillance/pen register capability, however.

Telegram and Signal are two services with more limitations on what the FBI can legally obtain. Telegram does not offer message content in any condition, nor does it "typically" provide contact information. The FBI document, however, adds that Telegram "may" disclose IP addresses and phone numbers to authorities for "confirmed" terrorist investigations.

Signal does not provide the message content either but does offer the date and time a user registered on the service and the last date is connected to the platform.

Although most of the information is not new, the document gives a better understanding of how these platforms compare. However, we are not sure if this news is going to make people switch the messaging platforms. Let us know if you plan on doing so.