FBI: We can’t listen to Facebook Messenger voice calls. Judge: Tough luck

A federal judge in Fresno, California recently denied prosecutors’ request to force Facebook to wiretap voice calls by suspected gang members conducted over Messenger.

According to a Friday report by Reuters, despite already having substantive traditional wiretaps and intercepting Messenger texts between alleged MS-13 gangsters, the government wanted further access.

“Currently, there is no practical method available by which law enforcement can monitor these calls,” FBI Special Agent Ryan Yetter wrote in a nearly-100-page-long affidavit submitted to the court on August 30, 2018.

The three participants in those calls are now in jail, according to Reuters.

The court proceeding, decision, and docket that deal with the wiretap request remain sealed. According to Reuters, Facebook has the capability to wiretap Messenger calls “with some effort,” but it’s unable to do so for WhatsApp calls. The government now seems to have dropped its request.

While traditional telecom companies must give access to police under a 1990s-era law known as CALEA, Internet-based calls are exempt, despite the government’s previous efforts to change the law. Prosecutors seemingly argued that nevertheless, Facebook had to comply with the government’s request.

Mark Broughton, an attorney for one of the defendants named Denis Barrera-Palma, did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

However, Broughton told Reuters that he would seek the application to wiretap Messenger voice calls, which could eventually make them part of the public court record.

Facebook also did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment.

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