As Facebook owns Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, the policies relating to disclosure of data to law enforcement are broadly the same.
Facebook’s policy is to access and share your information in the following circumstances:
- Where a legal request has been made – because Facebook is an American company, the police must make a Mutual Legal Assistance request via the Government to access any data. This can be a lengthy process, taking anywhere from 6 months to 2 years. However, on 3 October 2019, the UK and US entered into the Bilateral Data Sharing Agreement which will allow the police to apply directly to Facebook, speeding up the process.
- In an emergency – if Facebook believes in good faith that there is a risk of serious injury, death or imminent harm to a child, it will release your data without a Mutual Legal Assistance request.
It is highly likely that Facebook will release at least some private data to the police if requested. Statistics released by Facebook show that from the period July-December 2018, authorities in the UK submitted 7,218 requests for information (either using a legal process or via an emergency request). Facebook provided data in 91% of these cases.