This winter's NSA revelations opened a lot of people's eyes. The US government can (and does) surveil the country's citizens, sometimes scooping data right off the servers of Google and Facebook. But surely Snapchat, the service that deletes all messages after they've been read, is safe? Not so much.
Snapchat just admitted in a blog post that it's handed unopened messages over to the authorities on multiple occasions in the past year or so. Snaps that have been opened are deleted and irretrievable, but the unopened messages remain on the company's servers — which are run by Google — for 30 days. "Since May 2013, about a dozen of the search warrants we've received have resulted in us producing unopened Snaps to law enforcement," Micah Schaffer, Snapchat's head of trust and safety, explains. "That's out of 350 million Snaps sent every day."
So this is a very rare occurrence. In fact, it looks like Snapchat hands user data over to the authorities much less than Facebook, Google and Yahoo, all of whom issue semi-annual transparency reports detailing their dealings with authorities. It's worth noting that these companies do hold back some information about user data requests due some anti-terrorism laws, though they're working on getting those laws changed.
Along those lines, though, there might be more interaction between Snapchat and the authorities that Snapchat legally can't tell us about. Snapchat says that all of these requests come following warrants — unlike some of the NSA's surveillance — but these days we don't really know what's going on in the dark corners of law enforcement. It's increasingly clear, though, that it's nothing good. [Snapchat via Verge]
Image via Snapchat / Michael Hession