Can Cops Recover Deleted WhatsApp Messages?

WhatsApp is the most widely used messaging platform in the world. It is preferred by individuals, communities as well as businesses and organizations. Monthly active users of WhatsApp are well above 130 billion. WhatsApp is preferred for its simplicity, along with its advanced encryption-powered safety features. In case of the latter, it makes us wonder how safe are our messages on WhatsApp. Can cops recover deleted WhatsApp messages? To answer such questions, here are some important things to know.

No record of deleted messages – In normal situation, WhatsApp does not maintain a backup of data deleted by the user. However, if an individual is under active surveillance and cops have requested to keep track of their activities, WhatsApp will have all the records of the individual. The records will be there even if the user may have deleted their chats and other data.

Local storage – While information may not be available on WhatsApp servers once chats and data is deleted by user, such data can still be accessible via local storage of the phone or other device. With the help of advanced forensics, cops can recover deleted WhatsApp messages and data from the phone or other device. Unless the data is overwritten by new data, the forensics team can always attempt to recover deleted WhatsApp data. One needs to be aware that deleted data could also be recovered from the sender’s or receiver’s device.

Legal process – When it comes to disclosing information to the police, WhatsApp follows the applicable legal processes. For example, a valid subpoena is required to disclose basic information such as name of user, IP address, email address, joining date, last seen date, etc. For more detailed information such as address book, chats, profile photos, group information, etc., WhatsApp will require a valid search warrant. The fact that applicable legal procedures are followed ensures that user data is not misused.

Emergency requests – There are situations when cops may not have time to go through the standard legal processes. For example, there could be a situation where someone’s life may be at risk. Or there could be cases where a child may be facing risk of physical harm. In such cases, WhatsApp may consider requests by the police to divulge information about the individual. Such requests should be made via government-issued email ID only.

As is evident from above, WhatsApp will not store deleted messages on its server. Until the police may have asked them to do so beforehand. Also, one needs to remember that data can still be recovered from the device with the use of advanced cyber forensics tools. Data may also be available via the user’s device, who may have sent or received the messages.

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