Information for law enforcement
These operational guidelines are provided for law enforcement and governmental officials who are seeking to request Snapchat account records (i.e. Snapchat user data) from Snap Inc.
Many questions relating to law enforcement requests are answered in our Law Enforcement Guide. There you'll find details regarding possible availability of Snapchat account records and the type of legal process required to compel disclosure of that data.
US legal process
As a US company, Snap requires US law enforcement and governmental agencies to follow US law in order for Snap to disclose any Snapchat account records.
Our ability to disclose Snapchat account records is generally governed by the Stored Communications Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq. The SCA mandates that we disclose certain Snapchat account records only in response to specific types of legal process, including subpoenas, court orders and search warrants.
International legal process
Non-US law enforcement and governmental agencies generally must rely on the mechanics of the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty or letters rogatory processes to request Snapchat account records from Snap. As a courtesy to non-US law enforcement, we will review and respond to properly submitted preservation requests while the MLAT or letters rogatory process is undertaken.
Emergency disclosure requests
Consistent with 18 U.S.C. §§ 2702(b)(8) and 2702(c)(4), we are able to voluntarily disclose Snapchat account records when we believe in good faith that an emergency posing a threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury requires the immediate disclosure of such records.
Information for law enforcement regarding how to submit emergency disclosure requests to Snap can be found in our Law Enforcement Guide. Emergency disclosure requests to Snap must be submitted by a sworn law enforcement official and must come from an official law enforcement (or governmental) email domain.
Data retention periods
Generally, once a Snap has been opened by all recipients, the content is permanently deleted and unavailable. If a Snap is unopened by one or more recipients, it may remain on our servers for up to 30 days. A Snap that has been posted to a user's Story can be viewed for up to 24 hours. Typically, the posted Snap is permanently deleted and unavailable 24 hours after being posted to their Story. Chat content will typically only be available if the sender or recipient has chosen to save the Chat. Memories content may be available until deleted by a user.
We honour formal requests from law enforcement to preserve information in accordance with 18 U.S.C. § 2703(f). Upon receiving a signed and dated preservation request on law enforcement department letterhead, we will attempt to preserve available Snapchat account records associated with any properly identified Snapchat user(s) in an offline file for up to 90 days, and will extend the preservation for one additional 90-day period with a formal extension request. Please see Section IV of our Law Enforcement Guide for more information on accurately locating a Snapchat account.
Child safety concerns
In instances where we're made aware of potential child exploitation content on our platform, our Trust & Safety team reviews the allegations and, if appropriate, reports such situations to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. NCMEC will then review those reports and coordinate with both domestic and international law enforcement agencies.
Snap does not disclose user data based on user consent.
User notice policy
Snap’s policy is to notify our users when we receive legal process seeking disclosure of their records. We recognise two exceptions to this policy. First, we will not notify users of legal process where providing notice is prohibited by a court order issued under 18 U.S.C. § 2705(b) or by other legal authority. Second, where we, in our sole discretion, believe an exceptional circumstance exists – such as cases involving child exploitation or the threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury – we reserve the right to forgo user notice.
Records disclosures made to US law enforcement will be accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity, which should eliminate the need for the testimony of a Custodian of Records.
Snap does not provide expert witness testimony.
How to submit requests
Law enforcement officials must address their requests to Snap Inc. Please be sure to identify the Snapchat username of the requested Snapchat account. If you are unable to locate a username, we can try – with varying degrees of success – to locate the account with a phone number or email address. Please see Section IV of our Law Enforcement Guide for more information on accurately locating a Snapchat account.
US law enforcement and governmental agencies should submit legal process (including preservation requests) to Snap via Snap’s Law Enforcement Service Site: less.snapchat.com.
From there, US law enforcement and governmental agencies can create an account for the purpose of submitting requests and checking the status of submissions.
We also accept service of legal process and general questions from law enforcement via email or mail, although our response time will be significantly slower.
Custodian of Records Snap Inc. 2772 Donald Douglas Loop North Santa Monica, CA 90405
Receipt of law enforcement requests by these means is for convenience only and does not waive any objections or legal rights of Snap or its users. We will not respond to correspondence from non-law enforcement or non-governmental officials submitted through the channels described above.
Law enforcement and the Snap community
Guidance for users, parents and educators
At Snap, we take our commitment to protecting Snapchatters from misuse of our platform very seriously. As part of that, we work with law enforcement and governmental agencies to promote safety on our platform.
Guidance around users' privacy concerns
Snap is committed to assisting law enforcement while respecting the privacy and rights of our users. Once we have received and established the validity of a legal request for Snapchat account records, we respond in compliance with applicable law and privacy requirements.
How to promote safety
While it's true that we value ephemerality, some account information may be retrieved by law enforcement through valid legal process. At times, this could mean assisting law enforcement with preventing illegal activities and actioning accounts for violations of Snap’s Terms of Service. We also assist with exigent situations and imminent threats to life, such as school shooting threats, bomb threats and missing persons cases.
Share with your community how they can report to Snap!
In-app reporting: You can report inappropriate content to us right in the app! Just press and hold on the Snap, then tap the “Report Snap” button. Let us know what’s going on – we’ll do our best to help!
Email us: You can also email a report to us right through our Support site.
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, please contact your local police as soon as possible.
Snapchat Transparency Reports are released twice a year. These reports provide important insight into the volume and nature of governmental requests for Snapchatters' account information and other legal notifications.