The US government recently failed to get wiretap access to Facebook Messenger, according to a new report. The legal spat allegedly took place in the US District Court in Fresno, California, and was sealed from the public. Sources claim the case involved suspected gang members and law enforcement’s desire to monitor their communications.
The information comes from Reuters, which reports that it got details from sources with knowledge of the sealed case. Last month, the same publication reported that federal and state law enforcement officials had tried to get Facebook ruled in contempt of court for refusing to wiretap Messenger.
The report claims that the judge ruled in favor of Facebook despite arguments against it, but no official statements have been made. The sources weren’t able to elaborate on why the judge ruled in the company’s favor.
It is noted, though, that an FBI agent publicly filed an affidavit related to the Fresno case, and the document reportedly shows that officials weren’t able to wiretap Messenger voice calls — at least not at the time of the legal issue.
Tech companies have resisted wiretapping orders by pointing out that voice calls on apps like Messenger are solely over the Internet, not traditional telecommunications equipment. According to Reuters, court documents revealed that law enforcement was successfully gathering text messages sent using Facebook Messenger, as well as regular phone calls.
The report is the latest in many public and alleged clashes between law enforcement and tech companies. Officials have increasingly complained about the rise of encryption and a lack of backdoors, making it difficult or impossible to access certain data as part of investigations and court proceedings.