Did US government agencies ask WhatsApp to help agencies spy on users in secret?

WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Updated: Jan 18, 2022, 08:47 PM(IST)

WhatsApp Photograph:( Reuters )

Story highlights

US federal agencies have been using surveillance law to track users on WhatsApp?  

The United States is using platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp to help the agencies spy on users in secret, Forbes reported citing newly-unsealed court documents show. 

As per the report, the US federal agencies have been using a 35-year-old American surveillance law in order to track users on WhatsApp. 

It was mentioned in the report that there was no explanation for why was it done. Also, it was reportedly done without knowing who they are targeting. 

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The report talks about a recently-unsealed government surveillance application that revealed that in November 2021. 

As per the report, the DEA investigators demanded the Facebook-owned messaging company to track seven users based in China and Macau.

The application revealed that the DEA has no idea about the identities of any of the targets. However, they asked WhatsApp to monitor the IP addresses and numbers. 

The Forbes report mentioned that such surveillance is done using a technology known as a "pen register" - under the 1986 Pen Register Act. 

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It is understood that the 'pen registers' are surveillance devices that capture the phone numbers dialled on outgoing telephone calls. It traps and traces devices to capture the numbers identifying incoming calls. 

They are not supposed to reveal the content of communications and as mentioned by the Forbed report, the application doesn't seek any message content. On the other hand, WhatsApp couldn’t provide content, as it is end-to-end encrypted.

Spyware

Recently, Poland's ruling party leader admitted that the country bought Israeli spyware but dismissed claims it was used against the opposition. 

Recent allegations about the use of Pegasus software have rocked Poland, drawing comparisons to the Watergate investigation that led to US president Richard Nixon's resignation in 1974.

Pegasus can turn smartphones into pocket spying devices, allowing the user to read the target's messages, track their location, and even turn on their camera and microphone without their knowledge.

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