The in-depth tale of Bylock, the Turkish messenger app whose 1×1 tracking GIF was the basis for tens of thousands of treason accusations

A group of exiled Turkish human rights lawyers have published an in-depth history of how Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Turkish government has described Bylock, an encrypted messenging app, whose 1×1 analytics pixel was used as the basis for accusing tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of Turks of treason, with consequences ranging from loss of employment and ostracization to imprisonment, to torture, to suicide.

The report shows just how arbitrary and changeable the Turkish state's case has been. For example, the state maintains that Bylock was instrumental in planning and executing the failed 2016 coup, even though the app had been discontinued four months before the coup took place.

The regime relies on logs from the country's ISPs to identify users of Bylock, fingerprinting them on the basis of their communications with Bylock's servers. These communications can be triggered without using Bylock, though: Bylock's tracking pixel was used for analytics for pop-up ads and in at least eight apps.

Further, the ISPs involved dynamically assign their IP addresses, meaning that those accused have never had the misfortune to ping a Bylock server — merely that their device was randomly assigned the IP address of someone who once pinged a Bylock server.

Most alarming is the sheer volume of people under suspicion because of Bylock: 215,000 IDs are implicated in the sweep. The state has vacillated between a series of arbitrary classifications for these suspects, classing them as "red," "blue" and "orange" then scrapping the system and replacing it with various other short-lived and ill-starred initiatives.

Under above mentioned the facts, we can say without hesitation that

i. The delayed and disintegrated forensic authentication of the digital data related the BYLOCK,

ii. Obtaining the digital data / evidence related with BYLOCK app without order and oversight of a judicial authority,

iii. Processing the digital data / evidence related with BYLOCK app before a forensic authentication (under a judge's warrant),

makes it less than an improperly obtained evidence, and shades doubts over its authenticity thereby depriving it of the legal evidence qualification.

The ever-changing arguments about the ways in which it was obtained, processed, evaluated, and shifting claims about the facts about the evidence such as the number of persons and messages; the unwillingness of the prosecutors to share the evidence with the defendants, together with the law enforcement agency's warning that the data cannot be a basis for judicial procedures create doubts of fabrication, alteration or corruption of the data.

BYLOCK – The Arrested Lawyers Initiative [Arrested Lawyers]