Can Law Enforcement Request Snapchat Videos or Pictures?

Snapchat is a widely popular mobile phone application that allows users to share video clips and images with their friends and family. Snapchat is unique because the images and video clips sent through the app can only be viewed for a matter of seconds. The Snapchat Law Enforcement guide was designed to familiarize United States law enforcement agencies with the information categories available from Snapchat in addition to the legal process required to gain access to user information.


The Electronic Communications Privacy Act, also known as the ECPA governs the ability of Snapchat to reveal user information. It orders that Snapchat unveil specific user information to law enforcement only in response to certain types of legal process. These legal process types include court orders, search warrants, and subpoenas. In simple terms, ECPA authorizes law enforcement to require Snapchat to disclose login information, the content of an account, and basic user identity details in the event that the legal process is important. It’s vital to note that Snapchat does not have the right or ability to provide law enforcement officials with any form of legal advice.

Snapchat New User Policy

As of November 15th, 2015, Snapchat created a new user policy. The policy states that when legal process is received to seek the content, records, or information of a user, the user will be informed. Snapchat has reinforced the fact that the app will not notify users of the legal process in the event that providing notice is banned from a court order that is issued under 18 U.S.C. 2705 (b) or by any other type of legal authority. In addition, if Snapchat believes that a rare circumstance exists such as cases that involve the threat of a bodily injury, imminent death, or child exploitation, the app reserves the right to refrain from notifying the user.

Snapchat Accounts Must Be Located

Prior to sending a legal request to Snapchat, the account username must be identified. If it’s not possible to locate the account, Snapchat may attempt to find it with an email address or phone number. It’s essential to understand that locating an account with an email address or phone number is not always successful.

When it comes to criminal defense or personal injury, such as car accidents, it will be very interesting to see how Snapchat is used in the near future. We have already seen a number of gifs and YouTube videos of criminal acts online so it is all in due time before they start getting viral on Snapchat.

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