Snapchat Gives Photos to Police

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Snapchat announced Monday that law enforcement agencies can access its self-destructing messages, but tried to clarity that it only happened a dozen times.

According to the company blog post from Snapster trust and safety staffer Micah Schaffer, the company can only retrieve unopened messages. Once opened by the intended recipient, it self-destructs or is deleted from Snapchat's cloud service.

However, unopened messages can be found by the company and handed over to law enforcement agencies, provided they have a search warrant, according to The Verge.

From the blog post:

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. 

Schaffer wrote that "about a dozen" unopened messages were handed over to law enforcement agencies, "out of 350 million snaps sent every day." Aside from unopened messages, those messages added to its latest feature, Stories, which keeps photo albums lasting 24 hours, can be reviewed for service violations in those 24 hours.
The unopened messages can hang around for 30 days, but only two employees -- Schaffer and founder and chief technical officer Bobby Murphy, have access to the messages, he wrote.
We've known for a while that Snapster's ephemeral photos aren't, and can easily be downloaded and saved by taking a quick screenshot. It's not a surprise that there may be other ways that messages can be traded and sent, and one of them might include giving the photos and videos to the police.
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