Self-destruct messaging service Snapchat has confessed handing over images not yet seen by its users to the US law enforcement agencies.
Outlining the circumstances under which it has given photos to investigators, Snapchat said it would get back an unopened snap if a search warrant is issued and the snap is still available on its server, under requirements by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA).
Snapchat operations director Micah Schaffer said: "Since May 2013, about a dozen of the search warrants we've received have resulted in us producing unopened snaps to law enforcement.
"That's out of 350 million Snaps sent every day.
"Law enforcement requests sometimes require us to preserve Snaps for a time, like when law enforcement is determining whether to issue a search warrant for Snaps.
"Only two people in the company currently have access to the tool used for manually retrieving unopened Snaps, our co-founder and CTO, Bobby (who coded it), and me."
The service works by enabling users to capture and share photos or short videos with friends for up to 10 seconds prior to the images' self-destruction time.
According to Snapshot, the difference between Stories and Snaps is that Stories can be accessed repeatedly for 24 hours, unlike unopened Snaps, which are stored for 30 days if they remain unopened.
However, Snaps added to Stories would be deleted from servers past 24 hours.
Recently, hackers have developed an app that secretly saves images and videos sent via the self-destruct messaging service.