Your Unopened Snapchats Are Being Given to Police, But It’s a Rare Occurrence

    October 14, 2013
    Josh Wolford

If you’re unaware that pretty much everything you do online is probably being tracked by someone, and all of the companies that house the content that you upload, post, tweet, and send on a daily basis routinely give it up to authorities – well, that’s a nice world you’re living in.

Still, questions arise surrounding new types of online communications. For instance Snapchat, an app that lets people send ephemeral messages that poof out of existence once read. Are police really hitting Snapchat with search warrants and forcing them to produce users’ snaps?

Yup. It’s not happening a lot, but it’s happening.

Snapchat clarified this in a blog post today, stating that yes, they can retrieve your unopened Snapchats (opened ones auto-delete from Snapchat’s servers) and hand them over to the cops.

From Snapchat:

So what is a circumstance when we might manually retrieve a Snap, assuming it is still unopened? For example, there are times when we, like other electronic communication service providers, are permitted and sometimes compelled by law to access and disclose information. For example, 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. For more information, see the section of our Privacy Policy that discusses circumstances when we may disclose information.

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.

Law enforcement requests sometimes require us to preserve Snaps for a time, like when law enforcement is determining whether to issue a search warrant for Snaps.

So, this isn’t happening all the time – but it is happening. It’s also happening with Google, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, and any other online steward of our precious info. At this point, if it’s something that you don’t want police to see, don’t even send it via a service whose selling point is that the messages only last for a few seconds. Just be smart, people.


Josh Wolford
Josh Wolford is a writer for WebProNews. He likes beer, Japanese food, and movies that make him feel weird afterward. Mostly beer. Follow him on Twitter: @joshgwolf Instagram: @joshgwolf Google+: Joshua Wolford StumbleUpon: joshgwolf