Information for law enforcement
These operational guidelines are provided for law enforcement and governmental officials who are seeking to request user account information 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 user records, information, or content and the type of legal process required to compel disclosure of that data.
Domestic legal process requests
As a US company, Snap Inc. requires domestic law enforcement and governmental agencies to follow US legal process for us to release any user account information.
For the most part, our ability to disclose user information is governed by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. § 2701, et seq. (ECPA). ECPA mandates that we disclose certain user information to law enforcement only in response to specific types of legal process, including subpoenas, court orders and search warrants. Generally speaking, ECPA authorises law enforcement to compel us to disclose basic subscriber information, non-content account information and account content (definitions for these are provided in Section V of our Law Enforcement Guide) in response to appropriate legal process.
International legal process requests
International law enforcement and governmental agencies must use Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) or letters rogatory processes to request user information from Snap Inc.
If you require assistance regarding the MLAT or letters rogatory processes, we urge you to seek assistance from your local prosecutorial authority, the US Legal Attaché for your jurisdiction or the US Department of Justice Computer Crime & Intellectual Property Section (CCIPS). Snap Inc. is not able to offer you assistance with the MLAT or letters rogatory processes.
Under 18 U.S.C. §§ 2702(b)(8) and 2702(c)(4), we are able to voluntarily disclose information when we believe in good faith that an emergency posing a threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury would require the immediate disclosure of such information.
Information for law enforcement about submitting requests can be found in our Law Enforcement Guide. All emergency requests must be signed by a sworn law enforcement official and must come from an official law enforcement 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’ll attempt to preserve available account information associated with any properly identified Snapchat user(s) (see note below to learn more about usernames) 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.
Note: 18 U.S.C. § 2703(f) does not contemplate “serial” preservation requests or multiple extension requests beyond one additional 90-day period. Accordingly, we do not accommodate such requests.
Our Law Enforcement Guide distinguishes a display name from a “username”. Section IV covers how to accurately locate a Snapchat username. Note: usernames cannot contain spaces or emojis.
Child safety concerns
In instances where we’re made aware of potential child exploitation content on our platform, our trust and safety team reviews the allegations and, if appropriate, reports such situations to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC). 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
Our policy is to notify our users when we receive legal requests seeking production of their records, information or content. We recognise two exceptions to this policy. First, we will not notify users of legal requests 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 bodily injury – we reserve the right to forgo user notice.
Snap does not provide expert witness testimony. Data productions made to law enforcement will be accompanied by a signed Certificate of Authenticity, which should eliminate the need for the testimony of a Custodian of Records.
How to submit requests
Law enforcement officials must address their requests to Snap Inc. Please be sure to identify the username of the requested 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.
Note: we are unable to locate Snapchat accounts based on real name, date of birth, street address, social security number, Snapchat display/vanity name, or similar identifiers. Please see Section IV of our Law Enforcement Guide on locating a Snapchat account.
Custodian of Records
2772 Donald Douglas Loop North
Santa Monica, CA 90405
Law enforcement email for all general inquiries and to send legal process and emergency requests:
We will not respond to correspondence sent by non-law enforcement officials to the addresses 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 legitimacy of a legal process request for user data, we respond in compliance with applicable legal 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 proper legal process. At times, this could mean assisting law enforcement with preventing illegal activities and actioning accounts for terms of service violations. 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 🏳️ button in the corner. Let us know what’s going on – we’ll do our best to help! Learn more about reporting abuse in‑app.
- 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.