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WhatsApp Ordered To Help US Agents Spy On Chinese Phones

Wednesday January 19, 2022. 10:25 PM , from Slashdot
New submitter HillNKnowlton22 writes: U.S. federal agencies have been using a 35-year-old American surveillance law to secretly track WhatsApp users with no explanation as to why and without knowing whom they are targeting. In Ohio, a just-unsealed government surveillance application reveals that in November 2021, DEA investigators demanded the Facebook-owned messaging company track seven users based in China and Macau. The application reveals the DEA didn't know the identities of any of the targets, but told WhatsApp to monitor the IP addresses and numbers with which the targeted users were communicating, as well as when and how they were using the app. Such surveillance is done using a technology known as a pen register and under the 1986 Pen Register Act, and doesn't seek any message content, which WhatsApp couldn't provide anyway, as it is end-to-end encrypted.

As Forbes previously reported, over at least the last two years, law enforcement in the U.S. has repeatedly ordered WhatsApp and other tech companies to install these pen registers without showing any probable cause. As in those previous cases, the government order to trace Chinese users came with the statement that the Justice Department only needed to provide three 'elements' to justify tracking of WhatsApp users. They include: the identity of the attorney or the law enforcement officer making the application; the identity of the agency making the application; and a certification from the applicant that 'the information likely to be obtained is relevant to an ongoing criminal investigation being conducted by that agency.' 'Other than the three elements described above, federal law does not require that an application for an order authorizing the installation and use of a pen register and a trap and trace device specify any facts,' the government wrote in the latest application.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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