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Can police have the data of the IM chats of whatsapp,facebook,skype,viber...?

Posted on 2014-01-10
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Last Modified: 2014-01-11
When we are txting using IM chats, does police get these data?
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Question by:Ihab
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17 Comments
 
LVL 88

Assisted Solution

by:rindi
rindi earned 498 total points
ID: 39770748
This depends on the country your in. In most civilized countries, the police need official warrants to be allowed access to any such data. Besides that, it also depends on where the data of those chats are hosted. If the hosting servers are in different countries, it can be difficult for the police to get to that info even if they have the official warrants.

Of course there is this business with the USA and NSA (that's not the police), and they seem to have access to almost anything. Of course what they do is unlawful, at least in most civilized countries...
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LVL 35

Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39770769
I think it depends on who you are.

If you are a high profile public figure, the police/secret service/competition will have files on you and there's a high chance someone is monitoring your communications.

If you're a plain Joe, your data might be part of data acquired en mass by the police/NSA but it won't be read by a human until you become a part of the first category or the content of your conversations will raise a red flag in an automated scanner.

In other words, if you don't deal in drugs/guns/children etc and you're not a politician/CEO you don't need to worry about police reading your chat.
You do have to worry though about your friends/neighbors, as they are the most likely to be interested in you.

HTH,
Dan
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39770824
So technically they can do, but because of the huge data they will not monitor until I become specious ,correct me if I am wrong
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LVL 35

Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39770834
Yup.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39770844
but I read in whatsapp that the data is encrypted
Thanks for your support , .
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LVL 35

Assisted Solution

by:Dan Craciun
Dan Craciun earned 750 total points
ID: 39770869
Yes, whatsapp started encrypting their data. This is from their faq: http://www.whatsapp.com/faq/general/21864047

But apparently did not get it right: http://www.pcworld.com/article/2053480/doh-basic-flaw-in-whatsapp-could-allow-attackers-to-decrypt-messages.html

What that means is that if the police/nsa have your encrypted conversation, they can decrypt it.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39770884
Does this monitoring done in the ISP?
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LVL 35

Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39770921
Mass monitoring is done at the ISP/backbone level.

Targeted monitoring (when the police are specifically targeting you) can be as small and direct as a phone sniffer.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39770942
Does targeted monitoring includes whatsapp, facebook, viber, skype...?
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LVL 88

Assisted Solution

by:rindi
rindi earned 498 total points
ID: 39771020
From what I heard, the NSA can decrypt some encrypted data. It seems they have been provided with decryption keys by some of the manufacturers.

But again, it depends largely on which country you are in. Some which I don't regard as being "very civilised" don't regard the personal privacy, freedom of thought and talk, and human rights of their citizens very high, and those countries often have censorship etc. In those countries you can expect getting observed by "authorities" even if you don't fall under a direct suspicion category.
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LVL 35

Expert Comment

by:Dan Craciun
ID: 39771046
Furthermore, if you are in one of those countries, encrypting your communications will automatically draw attention to you...
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39771322
Very Bad, I thought that technically can't happened due to the large amount of data and encryption regardless of the laws
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LVL 35

Assisted Solution

by:Dan Craciun
Dan Craciun earned 750 total points
ID: 39771357
A good encryption cannot be broken... if done right. But a court order can always force you to decrypt your data, so encryption is not the ultimate solution.

That being said, for the security conscious, there are options. For ex: https://whispersystems.org/

They have call and sms encryption that supposedly work.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39771385
A scenario, suppose I am txting my friend on whatsapp , does security systems monitor real time the txting?like on keyword or something like that?
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LVL 35

Assisted Solution

by:Dan Craciun
Dan Craciun earned 750 total points
ID: 39771439
Don't think it's real time.

But it depends on the country, I guess. China, North Korea, maybe Middle East countries, might have better monitoring capabilities for their citizens.
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Author Comment

by:Ihab
ID: 39771582
Thanks
I will leave the question open for more advices
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LVL 27

Accepted Solution

by:
tliotta earned 252 total points
ID: 39772839
Note that regardless of anything you read, you will never know unless you do the coding of the app itself. (Even then, it's not absolute certainty unless perhaps you also create your own hardware.)

If you have concerns over authorities knowing the content of your conversations, then don't send questionable data. Otherwise, all you can do is vote and donate time/money to appropriate civil rights efforts.

Either trust the app providers or don't.

Tom
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