Snowden’s Favorite Encryption App Signal Wins Over FBI’s Subpoena and Gag Order

The American Civil Liberties Union announced Tuesday that Open Whisper Systems (OWS), the company behind popular encrypted messaging app Signal, was subpoenaed earlier this year by a federal grand jury in the Eastern District of Virginia to hand over a slew of information—”subscriber name, addresses, telephone numbers, email addresses, method of payment”—on two of its users.

Further, OWS was prevented for at least several months from publicly disclosing that it had received such an order until the ACLU successfully challenged it.

After months of fighting, OWS has won its battle against FBI’s subpoena and gag order. What’s more, Signal, widely considered the gold standard of encrypted messaging apps and recommended by security experts like Edward Snowden, collects as little data as possible and therefore was unable to hand anything useful over to agents.

“That’s not because Signal chose not to provide logs of information,” ACLU lawyer Brett Kaufman told the Associated Press. “It’s just that it couldn’t.” “The Signal service was designed to minimize the data we retain,” Moxie Marlinspike, the founder of OWSY, told the New York Times. The subpoena came with a yearlong gag order that was successfully challenged by the ACLU. Signal’s creators challenged the gag order as unconstitutional, “because it is not narrowly tailored to a compelling government interest.”

With more than a million members, activists, and supporters, the ACLU is a nationwide organization that fights tirelessly in all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C. to safeguard everyone’s rights.

In November 2015, whistle blower Edward Snowden tweeted, “I use Signal every day. #notesforFBI (Spoiler: they already know).”

Reina Ho

Reina Ho is a freelance reporter who focuses on censorship and information control in online space.

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