The USMJ’s ruling that a cell phone number is also required for a pen register/track and trace order on a WhatsApp account is incorrect. All the government needs is the WhatsApp account number because the cell phone number isn’t even important to the government: just the WhatsApp messages, and they are clearly covered by the statute. In re Application of United States of Am. for PRTT Order for One WhatsApp Account for Investigation of Violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 43599 (D. D.C. Mar. 2, 2018):
The Magistrate Judge also stated that the government did not “identify the provider of [ ] cellular telephone service” for the device associated with the designated WhatsApp account. Consolidated Order at 2. Given the information the government seeks, however, WhatsApp is the relevant service provider. Under the pen register statute, an order authorizing a PR/TT device “shall apply to any person or entity providing wire or electronic communication service in the United States.” 18 U.S.C. § 3123(a)(1). By “provid[ing] users with the ability to send and receive electronic communications to each other,” Airbnb, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19556, 2018 WL 692923, at *5, through the WhatsApp Messenger application, WhatsApp is providing an electronic communications service. Thus, because the government seeks only “information associated with each access to, and each communication to or from,” a specific WhatsApp account, App. at 1, WhatsApp is the appropriate entity to provide the requested information.
See NYLJ: US Justice Dept. Wins ‘WhatsApp’ Surveillance Order on Appeal by C. Ryan Barber