Skip to main content

In obvious news, the police can and have looked at your Snapchat messages

snapchat unveils anti hacking tactic shouts
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Today in “reasons why you shouldn’t use Snapchat for illicit means,” the app’s head of trust and safety Micah Shaffer says that unopened Snaps can be and are turned over to law enforcement in certain cases.

“If we receive a search warrant from law enforcement for the contents of Snaps and those Snaps are still on our servers, a federal law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) obliges us to produce the Snaps to the requesting law enforcement agency.”

This shouldn’t come as any huge surprise; no site or app is safe from the ECPA and if something is stored on your servers and the federal government has a warrant demanding they’re able to access it … well, then you have to turn it over. What has caught Snapchat users a bit off guard is that the whole idea of ephemeral messaging is their content is supposed to disappear. Of course, if you still think Snapchat is a safety zone specializing in vanishing messages, you clearly haven’t been paying attention.

To break this down even more, here’s exactly what’s happening: When you send a Snap, before it’s opened it sits on a Google-hosted cloud server. Once the recipient opens the Snap, then it “disappears” (from the server – there’s no way to prevent screenshots … yet).

Furthermore, you may want to note that those new Snapchat Stories, which last 24 hours, are viewable for that via Snapchat’s servers.

So far, according to Schaffer, not too many Snaps have been handed over to the authorities. “Since May 2013, about a dozen of the search warrants we’ve received have resulted in us producing unopened Snaps to law enforcement. That’s out of 350 million Snaps sent every day.” But with the uptick (or just relative sudden awareness) of using social platforms to show off or communicate about illegal or NSFW activities  (or those that contain evidence of assault – in which case, please, use social apps, you deserve what’s coming), it wouldn’t be terribly surprising if law enforcement agencies made Snapchat a regular stop in their investigations.

Editors' Recommendations

Molly McHugh
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Before coming to Digital Trends, Molly worked as a freelance writer, occasional photographer, and general technical lackey…
Telegram tips and tricks to step up your messaging game
Telegram App.

If you're looking to chat with friends and family, Telegram is a reliable cross-platform option, allowing Android, iOS, Windows, MacOS, and Linux users to hang out and communicate. Compared to some other chat options, Telegram places a heavy focus on privacy and security, making it a solid choice for your digital life. If you're diving into Telegram, here are a few tips and tricks to allow you to get the most out of your experience.

Are you looking for other secure ways to chat with friends? Be sure to check out our article looking at the best encrypted messaging apps for iOS and Android.
Download Telegram

Read more
Facebook restricts news outlets that have ties to political groups
The Facebook home page on a screen.

Facebook’s News tab will no longer include news publishers that have political affiliations. 

The new policy announced on Tuesday allows news publishers with political ties to exist on the platform, but limits what features they can access. Publishers that are directly affiliated with a political entity or person can no longer claim the news exemption within Facebook’s ad authorization process, and they won’t be included in Facebook News. 

Read more
Twitter iOS app update lets you choose who can reply to your tweets
Twitter logo.

Twitter just rolled out a new feature to its iOS app that lets users limit which people can reply to their tweets. 

The feature was announced in May as a test, but you can now use it in Twitter’s latest iOS app update, which rolled out late Wednesday. 

Read more