That's iMessed up: Apple reportedly tracks your message contacts

Thought your iMessages were private? Well..

Apple's proprietary SMS equivalent, Messages, may have all kinds of bells and whistles - including special overlays and stickers, thanks to iOS 10 - but the service may not be the best choice for completely discreet chats.

Contacts reached via Messages, previously known as iMessages, are logged by Apple, which allow the company and law enforcement to access who've you texted in the past, according to a report by The Intercept.

The report is based on a document provided to The Intercept by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Electronic Surveillance Support Team, which details to law enforcement what kind of information can be successfully subpoenaed from a suspect's iPhone.

While the logged information can't extract the actual contents of the message, it can still divulge the phone numbers of those a Messages user attempted to contact - as well as the time and date of the message and potentially eve location, via an IP address.

iMessage, MyMessage

The reasoning behind the bookkeeping is Apple's servers need to check to see if a text sent through Messages is being sent to another Messages user, enabling all the special features of the service.

Any Messages user has seen this for themselves when conversations on the app come up in one of two colors. While texts between mutual Messages users are blue, missives sent to non-Apple owners wind up green, indicating normal SMS services are in use.

Apple says these logs are deleted after 30 days, though any repeated interaction with new members in your contacts list - or any other iOS app with similar access to the servers - may refresh the saved information.

It's not uncommon for phone carriers to have contact information on record and available to investigators who show up with a warrant.

However, Apple's particular insistence on privacy in the last year, on top of promoting Messages as a superior take on conventional SMS texting, is worth noting in light of this news, especially when compared to a growing list of competing messaging services like Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, and Allo.

Parker Wilhelm
Parker Wilhelm is a freelance writer for TechRadar. He likes to tinker in Photoshop and talk people's ears off about Persona 4.