Yes, the FBI has access to much of your data. So, don’t think whatever you have in your messaging app is 100% private. Sure, messaging apps claim to protect every information you share, but data privacy matters are tricky. Just watch digital investigations news and ask yourself how the authorities access such private information.
A recent FBI report offers some valid answers. The January 2021 document explains the type of information the FBI can obtain from messaging apps. The fact that the FBI can track you through some of these apps proves that they’re less secure than you think.
What Can the FBI See?
The FBI-released document details nine popular messaging apps: WhatsApp, Signal, iMessage, Wickr, WeChat, Telegram, Viber, Threema, and Line. Below is a rundown of what private data the FBI can obtain from these apps.
WhatsApp is surprisingly insecure despite its strong stance on data protection. The FBI still has limited access to contacts, message content, and blocked contacts even if you use encrypted backups.
There’s little the FBI can obtain from Signal compared to WhatsApp. The investigators can’t access your contact information or message content, but they can tell when you signed up, and the last time you logged in.
Regarding what the FBI can see, iMessage is one of the apps offering the least secure services. Your iCloud backups, sender and receiver data, encryption keys, dates and times, contacts, basic user information, and message content are at risk. The FBI easily extracts the content from iCloud’s default non-encrypted message backups.
The FBI enjoys a considerable degree of access to your Wickr account. They can see all messages, connected phone numbers and addresses, device info, and times and dates.
Message content in WeChat is private for all users. Nevertheless, users in China are more secure than people in other countries. If you own a non-China account, the FBI can access IP addresses, email addresses, numbers, and names.
Although Viber bars the FBI access to messages, it still has some loopholes. The FBI can still access the source, destination, messages’ timestamp, time and date info, IP addresses, and registration data.
Threema’s relative privacy makes it the only authorized messaging platform for the Swiss army. The platform remains unanswerable to the US Cloud Act, but the FBI can still see all the email addresses, login dates, usage data, and phone numbers you provide.
In addition to message content, the FBI can see email addresses, phone numbers, and names on your Line account.
Enhance Privacy When Using Messaging Apps
It’s worth noting that the FBI can’t use your data without a good reason. Actually, they may need a subpoena or warrant to access any information.
Still, you must take personal measures to ensure your data remains private. Check whether the app complies with Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) security regulations.
One optional but vital step in these requirements is to activate “end-to-end encryption.” Some apps have this enabled by default, but you should confirm that it’s activated. If you keep it off, you make it easy for prying eyes to see your data.
It’s also wise to disable automatic iCloud backups on your iPhone as Apple hasn’t developed end-to-end encryption for them, exposing you to third parties.
“Secure” Apps May Be Insecure
Most messaging apps claim to be secure, depending on the situation. As records show, even the most private apps sometimes leak data.
Now that you understand the issue better, you should be decisive and keep your data private. Understand the difference across apps remembering that none is 100% private. So, you will want to watch what you write, do, or say online.