Don’t delete Slack or Signal chats, US agencies warn companies

As more employees use instant messaging at work in lieu of email, federal antitrust enforcers issued a warning Friday: Companies under investigation must turn over those records. 

The Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission announced they are tweaking the language they send to companies under investigation to make clear they are required to preserve and turn over chats from platforms such as Salesforce Inc.’s Slack and ephemeral messaging apps like Meta Platforms Inc.’s WhatsApp and Signal. Failure to preserve those messages can lead to fines or potential criminal charges for document destruction, the agencies said.

The announcement comes as antitrust enforcers have raised concerns in recent cases about deletion of chats and messages. 

The Justice Department has asked the federal judge overseeing its antitrust suit against Alphabet Inc.’s Google to sanction the company for failing to preserve internal communications between employees. A different federal judge chastised Google’s top lawyer, Kent Walker, last year over the company’s record-keeping practices that led to the destruction of messages on Google Chats, the tech giant’s internal messaging program. 

Meanwhile, the FTC alleged that Amazon.com Inc. employees including founder and former Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos used the messaging app Signal to hide communications from the regulator, which was investigating the company for antitrust violations. Amazon has denied that its employees deleted messages, saying the company informed the FTC about the Signal usage and “painstakingly collected Signal conversations from its employees’ phones, and allowed agency staff to inspect those conversations.”

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