Snapchat Manually Retrieves ‘Snaps’ For Law Enforcement

Do you think your Snapchat ‘snaps’ are private? When they are opened they are, but when left unopened they sit on Snapchat servers. In some cases those unopened snaps are handed over to law enforcement officials.

In a new blog post, Snapchat Director of Operations Micah Schaffer explains that under court order unopened snaps are sometimes manually retrieved.

Schaffer writes:

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 last May the company has produced snaps for “about a dozen” of the search warrants it has received. In some cases the agency has chosen to “preserve” some unopened snaps until a search warrant can be produced.

Only Schaffer and co-founder and CTO Bobby Murphy have access to manually retrieve unopened messages on the Snapchat system.

Snapchat Stories are also accessible, but once again only with the request of a search warrant.

In the age of online data retrieval it is always safe to assume that almost anything we produce and send to other people can be retrieved by third parties.

Do you think it is right for Snapchat to hand over unopened messages when a search warrant is provided?