- US Customs and Border Protection has been using the encrypted messaging app Wickr to communicate.
- In October, The National Archives expressed concern about the use of the app, NBC News reported on Sunday.
- The app can automatically delete messages which could mean records are not kept.
The National Archives sent a letter to US homeland security officials expressing concern about the use of an encrypted messaging app by Customs and Border Protection, NBC News reported on Sunday.
The letter from Laurence Brewer, the chief records officer of the National Archives and Records Administration to Eric Hysen, the chief information officer of the Department of Homeland Security was sent in October 2021. NBC News first reported on the letter.
Brewer expressed concern about how the agency was using the Amazon-owned Wickr app, which can automatically delete messages, following reports in the news that agents were using the app as well as another encrypted messaging service, WhatsApp.
Vice reported in September 2021 that the CBP was using Wickr across “all components” of the organization. In 2019, Vice reported that CBP paid over $700,000 for Wickr.
“I wanted to reach out to ensure that records management regulations are being adhered to and to ensure that the CBP is regulating the use of these messaging applications consistent with NARA’s and the Department’s records management policies,” Brewer wrote.
He added that he also wanted to make sure that all employees were aware that they must keep all messages for federal records.
Brewer’s concern is that the use of these types of apps by DHS employees without any specific rules and “without complying with established recordkeeping” could “expose the department to the risk of potential unauthorized destruction of records.”
Amazon bought Wickr in June 2021. The app is popular amongst the military, government agencies, journalists, and politicians. Analysts told Insider that move could help Amazon acquire more government contracts and compete with Microsoft.
This isn’t the first time CBP’s record-keeping has been questioned. In September 2021, The DHS Inspector General released a report that said CBP did not always save messages between US and Mexican officials. Brewer cited this point in his letter and asked CBP to respond with “a report documenting the unauthorized disposition of the federal records that were identified in the OIG report,” as well as information on its recordkeeping with apps like Wickr, within 30 days.
NBC News reported that CBP said it sent an initial report in December and has been providing quarterly updates.
The National Archives, Amazon, and CBP did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.