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Is My Chat History Saved Somewhere?

How would you know?

You can't prove a negative, so it's impossible to say your chats aren't being saved somewhere. But it's pretty darned unlikely.
Watching you?
Question: If I disable my chat history in the app I use, is it guaranteed that the conversations are not stored somewhere else?

Guaranteed? Certainly not.

Unlikely, perhaps, but there are ways that the conversations could still be around.

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Saved chat history

In decreasing order of risk and likelihood, your chats could be saved:

  • By the person you’re chatting with.
  • The chat tool or service itself.
  • Malware — specifically, spyware or keystroke loggers.

The other guy

We’ll start with the obvious: the person you’re chatting with could easily keep a complete history of the conversation on their side. There’s no way to know if they recording the entire conversation.

They certainly could be, and there’s nothing you can do about it.

So question 1: How much do you trust them?

The chat tool itself

There are many, many different tools available for chatting. Some promote themselves as particularly private and secure. Others pay lip service to the idea, but because they’re owned by large companies with questionable privacy track records, it’s unclear if we should trust them.

“End-to-end encryption” is the buzzword, and when implemented properly, only the individuals involved in the conversation can see the conversation. No one in the middle can see it.1

However, end-to-end is not always the default, meaning that intermediaries might still be able to see and record your chats. In addition, the chat software itself can see your chats, and while the connection might be encrypted end-to-end, it’s technically possible for the tool to keep a separate record.

Question 2: How much do you trust the tool you’re using?


Spyware, keystroke loggers, or parental monitoring software can also track your conversations.

Some may keep the log hidden somewhere on your machine while others may send the conversation to some other computer either in real time or in periodic batches.

Question 3: How secure is your machine or device? Make sure you’re maintaining proper security and running regular anti-malware scans.2


Like any program run in Windows, chat programs use memory, and that memory can be swapped out to disk and end up in the paging or swap file. There’s a small chance that your conversation (or parts of it) could reside there for short amounts of time. Windows goes to great lengths to keep the paging file secure; however, quoting a Microsoft website:

The file system security for paging files prevents any user from gaining access to and reading these files, and these security settings cannot be changed. However, someone other than the authorized user might start the computer under a different operating system to read a paging file.

What this means is that with a lot of work and a lot of luck, someone who has physical access to your machine might be able to extract some data from the paging file. Fortunately, this really applies only to particularly high-value targets such as political figures, dissidents, billionaires, and so on.

Question 4: Are you a high-value target? If so, take steps to secure your equipment physically.

Do this

There are no guarantees. Ultimately, it’s fairly unlikely for your chats to be recorded or kept by anyone. You and I just aren’t that interesting.

To the extent that it’s possible, I’d be most concerned about the person I’m chatting with followed by spyware.

Podcast audio


Footnotes & References

1: There are moves afoot to outlaw end-to-end encryption in some jurisdictions so that law enforcement can monitor criminal activity. Whether that will be abused to monitor more is unclear.

2: I don’t currently have a recommendation for security software for mobile devices, and don’t run any myself other than whatever’s included in Google’s distribution of Android OS and the Play Store. This scenario might warrant additional scrutiny, though, depending on the potential sensitivity of your chats.

4 comments on “Is My Chat History Saved Somewhere?”

  1. Yep, you and I just are not that interesting!

    I wanted to save a CHAT I had with Amazon, and used ctrl+c then ctrl+v to copy the CHAT and save it for myself.

    Imagine my surprise when the copied CHAT showed all CHAT’s I had had with Amazon, not just the most recent one I had wanted to save.

    Kind of freaky, but could be useful if what you were told would happen did not. You would be able to refer to it.

  2. Thanks Mark.

    I was surprised because it is over many years and all different topics.

    However, it looks like what you suggest is how they do it, just one long chat!


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