Leaked FBI document reveals how the agency can access data from WhatsApp, WeChat, iMessage, Telegram, Line, Signal, Wickr and Facebook Messenger

We all know that social media platforms and instant messaging services are really unfriendly to the privacy of their users, although we are not always clear about how this invasion of our confidential information occurs. However, thanks to the work of Mallory Knodel and the Center for Democracy and Technology, it was possible to know how these companies share details that they should not.

Knodel shared with Rolling Stone a document from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in which the Agency recognizes the ease with which it is possible to collect data from sources such as iMessage and WhatsApp, since only a court order is required. According to this document, Apple and Facebook applications are incredibly permissive when it comes to accessing their users’ information.

While Facebook (now known as Meta) and Apple have focused their marketing campaigns on the privacy of their services, hundreds of journalists, activists and users have pointed out how it is that law enforcement agencies exploit online platforms to extract information and collaborate with surveillance tasks in dozens of countries with repressive governments.

The FBI report, titled “Lawful Access” and published in early 2021 also emphasizes that these apps do a great job keeping hackers at bay, although they recognize that users are completely vulnerable to the activity of law enforcement agencies, which can resort to various legal avenues for the extraction of confidential data stored by these companies.

In addition to acknowledging this practice, the document includes detailed guidance on the type of information the agency can access through these legal requests, which span the world’s top 9 messaging apps, including WhatsApp, WeChat, iMessage, Telegram, Line, Signal, Wickr, and Facebook Messenger.

This document details how the FBI has at its disposal a whole legal team to obtain access to large amounts of information in the most popular messaging apps, used by billions of people around the world, so we can think that no one is safe from government surveillance.

Cybersecurity specialists point out that it is too unusual for law enforcement agencies to be able to access so much information, so the issue should concern users, government agencies and activists.

To learn more about information security risks, malware variants, vulnerabilities and information technologies, feel free to access the International Institute of Cyber Security (IICS) websites.