Sunday, December 4

This is how the FBI can access your WhatsApp conversations

  • An internal agency document published by ‘Rolling Stone’ indicates what data it can legally collect from messaging applications such as iMessage, Telegram or WeChat

Facebook and Apple have become two of the most powerful companies in the world thanks, in part, to the popularity of WhatsApp and iMessage, some applications of Messenger service that they sell as private. However, they are not so. Internal documents published by the magazine ‘Rolling Stone‘prove that the FBI you can easily access private data of its users, even to conversations in real time.

More specifically, the report points out that, as long as it has a court order or with a subpoena, the criminal investigation agency of the USA you can get the location and metadata — information about documents, images, files, or web pages — from WhatsApp and iMessage. Although these messaging services are encrypted, law enforcement agencies can use an injunction to legally force their owners to decrypt them. “The most popular encrypted messaging applications are also the most permissive,” he explained. Mallory Knodel, director of technology at the Center for Democracy and Technology, to ‘Rolling Stone’.

In the case of WhatsApp and iMessage, the FBI may have access to information about the user, their contacts, messages, backup copies and other data such as date, time and registry. The document – which had not been published to date – clashes with the narrative of respect for privacy that the executive directors of Meta (parent company of Facebook) and Apple, Mark Zuckerberg and Tim CookThey have been repeating for years.

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Without privacy

The FBI guide, dated January 7, 2021, makes clear the legal pathways that both the agency and cops state and federal have to extract confidential data of the users of the chat services most popular in the world, which also include Telegram, Signal, WeChat, Line, Wicker, Viber and Threema.

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Although all of them are sold as bastions of user privacy, the reality is different, since the law requires them to hand over this confidential information to the authorities. Telegram is the most private application of all of them and it is specified that it can only transfer some data to the FBI if it is proven that it is due to cases of terrorism.

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the United States approved the Patriot Act, which expanded the power of the authorities to promote a mass surveillance of citizens without a court order. All in the name of security in the face of the jihadist threat. However, it was not until 2013 that we learned the extent of this spy system. The former CIA analyst Edward snowden then revealed how the technological giants – Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Apple, Yahoo or YouTube, among others – had collaborated with the National Security Agency (NSA) to provide the communication and private information of users around the world. That symbiosis continues to exist.

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