Are You Being Spied on Via WhatsApp?

David Byrne


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A mini-investigation held by Rolling Stone shows that WhatsApp isn’t that privacy-oriented as its ads say. As it turns out, federal agencies and law enforcement can access your private data at any time. 

What’s Up with WhatsApp?

Rolling Stone managed to obtain a copy of almost a secret protocol designed by the FBI. According to the paper, which is dubbed “Legal Access”, feds and police can use a few loopholes to access sensitive data.

The document appeared recently: January 7, 2021. And it describes how and from whom the FBI can request this kind of info. In total, it mentions the nine largest messaging apps, including WhatsApp.

Let's see how this document threatens your privacy exactly.

  1. Subpoena scenario

It takes a simple subpoena to learn more about your WhatsApp activities. But it will be basic stuff: the publicly available info from your profile.

Things get more interesting when a search warrant comes into play. The app will be obliged to reveal your WhatsApp’s contacts from A to Z. 

Besides, investigators will learn about everyone who has your number in their mobile phone book.

  1. Pen register

That’s when things get worse. With the pen register, the FBI or cops will know who were the recipients of messages that you’ve sent.

The data, regarding this request, is produced by WA every 15 minutes. It’s almost like real-time tracking, and no other messenger is capable of that.

  1. Text messages   

As for your actual messages, you’re protected. (To an extent). WA uses end-to-end encryption. So even the personnel who run the app’s servers can’t decipher the mambo-jumbo, in which your messages turn while processed in the server room.

At the same time, in a “hot” scenario, officials can confiscate your gizmo. Then, no encryption will help.

  1. Real-life cases

FinCEN adviser Natalie Edwards potentially got revealed and arrested thanks to the protocol. She leaked a bunch of sensational materials to Buzzfeed back in 2020.

It was mentioned that the FBI knew that Buzzfeed’s reporters and Edwards exchanged messages frequently — it helped them to locate the “leakage source”. She was sentenced to 6 months.

  1. Other apps

Apple’s iMessage doesn’t even employ end-to-end encryption. If the authorities request access to your iCloud, the backups will reveal everything: your contacts, actual text messages, files exchanged, and so on. 

It turns out, privacy is still a vulnerable substance, when it comes to social media and messengers. One of the most secure apps so far is Signal. Sadly, not too many of your friends have heard about it.

Do you think it’s a justified move to access private data? Or is it a threat to basic rights? Share your opinion with us.