CREW is suing US Customs and Border Protection for records on their Wickr contract, following CBP’s failure to respond to the records request.

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Reporting that U.S. Customs and Border Protection was “deploying encrypted messaging app platform Wickr across ‘all components’ of the organization,” raises especially troubling questions because of the messaging app’s “auto-burn” feature where messages are deleted from a device after a certain period of time. This would seem in direct contradiction to the Federal Records Act which requires CBP to adopt “effective controls” to ensure proper preservation of all records documenting official agency business. 

CREW has submitted a request for all records and communications relating to U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s use of Wickr for official agency business. 

CBP’s compliance with this FOIA request would be an excellent first step towards repairing their trust with the public and fulfilling their federal obligations. As a practice, government agencies should perhaps steer away from using an app that boasts the ability to “permanently delete records,” and focus on preserving their records in accordance with FRA regulations. Agencies such as CBP, with spotty track records of data preservation, should be especially mindful of the need to preserve records for public accountability and transparency.

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