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FBI Can't Wiretap Facebook Messenger Voice Calls

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By George Khoury, Esq. on October 05, 2018 4:20 PM

A recently denied sealed motion for contempt in a federal criminal case might be clueing criminals into the most secure communication channel available on the market today: Facebook Messenger voice calls. Forget those burner phones that Jimmy McGill sold you on.

Apparently, the FBI recently filed a motion seeking to force Facebook to hack their own platform so that the FBI could wiretap voice calls made over Facebook Messenger because, apparently, the FBI can't. Shockingly, the court told the FBI no, and didn't sanction the social media giant. But that didn't stop the FBI from making arrests.

Messenger Voice Calls Not Tap-able

It's not necessarily that Facebook, nor the FBI, can't wiretap the Messenger voice calls, it's that Facebook won't and the court agrees that it shouldn't have to. While telecommunications providers, under federal law, must cooperate with wiretap orders, there are exemptions provided for when the communications occur completely over the internet.

Unfortunately, much of the specifics of the case are under seal, though what is known is that the purported participants in the three Messenger voice calls that the FBI sought to wiretap (but couldn't) have all been arrested and are pending trial. Notably, the text messages sent via Messenger, as well as normal phone calls, were wiretapped successfully.

Internet Communications on Tap?

Generally, the way VOIP communication works makes it very difficult for anyone to "wiretap." Even if someone was able to intercept the communication on the internet, the fact remains that unless that person also had the encryption key, what they intercept would be nearly worthless. While traditional phone calls are not encrypted, VOIP calls are.

In order for authorities to "wiretap" a VOIP call, generally it would require the VOIP provider to build a backdoor "eavesdropping" platform, which isn't something courts or the government are likely to impose.

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