WhatsApp under the hood. FBI declassified large-scale surveillance of messenger users


Talk that Whatsapp is closely cooperating with the US intelligence services have been going on almost since the appearance of the messenger. Previously, these “rumors” were somehow tactfully circumvented by the American authorities themselves and by Zuckerberg. Moreover, the owner of Facebook and Whatsapp often talked about the security of his services.

And now all doubts have been dispelled: in the Rolling Stone magazine they published a large exposition article. As evidence, they cite a document entitled ” Legal Access ” dated January 7, 2021, which the journalists received upon request in accordance with the Freedom of Information Law.

The document itself is an  internal instruction for the FBI staff. It says what data about users law enforcement agencies can request from 9 major instant messengers. Among them are iMessage, Telegram, Viber, Whatsapp, WeChat, Signal.

WhatsApp tells the most about users : the FBI can get a list of contacts of a person of interest, a list of users with whom he is recorded in the address book, as well as information about account actions (with whom and when you talked). If the special services “lead” a person, WhatsApp transmits a report on his actions every 15 minutes – this is the fastest result in comparison with other applications. True, the messenger does not disclose the contents of the messages.

Apple and their iMessage are keeping the correspondence under wraps, too. But there is a loophole: if a user has message synchronization enabled in iCloud, and backup copies of messages are stored there , then if there is an order, special services can receive encryption keys from Apple that open access to a large amount of data, including the contents of messages, personal photos and videos of the user. 

If you want to hide personal information from the ubiquitous American intelligence services, use Telegram or Signal. Pavel Durov’s messenger does not transmit metadata about users, but can disclose the phone number and IP address, but only if a terrorism case has been opened against the account owner. Signal is the best in terms of privacy : it agreed to give out only the date the application was installed, and the date of the last login to the account.