Do you believe somebody has committed – or intends to commit a crime, and you need a Snapchat message you received as evidence?
Or perhaps, you simply want to be able to show police that someone has been harassing or threatening you.
Regardless of your specific situation, it can lead you to wonder – is there any way for police to recover Snapchat messages that have been deleted? And if so, under what circumstances?
These are excellent questions. In this article, I’ll cover everything that you need to know!
Can Police Retrieve Deleted Snapchat Messages / Snaps?
According to Snapchat’s official documentation on how they work with law enforcement, Snapchat will provide authorities with data if legally required to.
While your local police won’t be able to get the data the moment you contact them, Snapchat will work with law enforcement if they are legally required to.
That being said, there is one problem.
Snapchat can only hand over the data it actually has. And due to the nature of the platform and its disappearing messages, Snapchat does not hang onto copies of messages or Snaps for long.
If you’re curious of what’s actually required for Snapchat to work with police, you may wish to check out their Law Enforcement Guide.
The document is quite long, coming in at 19 pages. However, the section you’d be looking for in this case would be Section 5, which starts on page 13.
Information Snapchat may be able to hand over includes, but is not limited to:
- Metadata (such as who someone messaged, and timestamps of the messages.)
- Contents of the messages or Snaps.
- Friends list.
- Information identifying the devices used with someone’s Snapchat account.
- Location data, if the user used location features and had location services turned on.
- Snapchat memories that were saved.
How Long Does Snapchat Store Data On Their Servers?
As just mentioned, Snapchat can only hand over data they actually have.
And unfortunately, the contents of messages and Snaps are deleted fairy quickly.
According to Snapchat’s documentation, Snaps and one-on-one chats are set to delete immediately after all recipients have opened them. So, by the time you realize that a message is problematic, it may be too late to ensure Snapchat has a copy.
Therefore, the best thing you can do at this point is to screenshot and document all harmful messages that you receive, so you have a record of receiving them.
There are a few exceptions to the timeline mentioned above, however:
- Unopened Snaps sent to one person are deleted after 31 days.
- Unopened Snaps sent to a group chat are deleted after 7 days.
- Messages that you have set to delete 24 hours after viewing (rather than immediately) are deleted from Snapchat’s servers 24 hours after opening them.
- Messages sent to group chats are deleted 24 hours after everyone has viewed them, or one week after they’re sent if not everyone has viewed them.
So, depending on how the message was sent to you, you may have up to 7 days before the messages are deleted forever.
Unfortunately, there is no way to retrieve messages that have been deleted by Snapchat’s servers – even with a warrant. The data simply isn’t recoverable.
Can Forensic Teams Pull The Data Off The Phone Itself?
We now know that while Snapchat works with law enforcement, the data simply isn’t there to hand over in many cases – especially when it comes to the actual contents of messages and Snaps.
But what if you were to hand over your phone to law enforcement? Would a forensics team be able to extract the data off of your device, even though it has been deleted?
Technically this may be possible, but it would be both time-costly, and unlikely to succeed. So truth be told, it’s unlikely that law enforcement would even bother trying, unless it was a very serious crime that was committed.
That being said, there are third-party options available as well.
A company called Decipher Forensics claimed that they were able to recover deleted Snapchat photos days after they were deleted off the phone, and charged between $300 and $500 for the service.
However, this was only possible for Android phones, and the claim was made way back in 2013.
Phones regularly rewrite over deleted data, with new data as you use your phone.
Once this happens, it makes it nearly impossible to recover, even with skilled teams.
While Snapchat will work with law enforcement when legally required to, they can only hand over data that they actually have.
Unfortunately, the contents of messages are deleted very quickly – often immediately after they’re opened. So, you should be sure to use other methods to document messages that need to be seen by police.
I hope that you’ve found this article helpful, and that it’s answered all of your questions.
If you have any other questions about Snapchat, ask them below and I’ll try my best to help.
Wishing you the best,
– James McAllister