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FTC Files Complaint Against Snapchat
By: Jessica Cherok
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Surprise, surprise — your Snapchat snaps are not as private as you thought. The Federal Trade Commission has announced that the photo sharing app has not been deleting photos like it claims to.

According to FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, “If a company markets privacy and security as key selling points in pitching its service to consumers, it is critical that it keep those promises.

Since a large part of Snapchat’s appeal is that users can designate expiration dates for the photos they send, claims that photos are not being deleted is troubling. In addition to not being completely deleted, there are ways the photos can be captured and saved.

By accessing Snapchat through third-party applications, users can bypass the services deletion feature. This feature only works within the official Snapchat app. If photos are accessed via the third-party app, photos can be saved and not subject to expiration.

The FTC complaint also alleges:
  • That Snapchat stored video snaps unencrypted on the recipient’s device in a location outside the app’s “sandbox,” meaning that the videos remained accessible to recipients who simply connected their device to a computer and accessed the video messages through the device’s file directory.
  • That Snapchat deceptively told its users that the sender would be notified if a recipient took a screenshot of a snap. In fact, any recipient with an Apple device that has an operating system pre-dating iOS 7 can use a simple method to evade the app’s screenshot detection, and the app will not notify the sender.
  • That the company misrepresented its data collection practices. Snapchat transmitted geolocation information from users of its Android app, despite saying in its privacy policy that it did not track or access such information.   
In response, Snapchat has agreed to put into place a privacy program to be monitored by independent third parties.

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About the Author
Jessica Cherok is an advocate for online privacy, campaigning for ethical data practices and the protection of personal privacy.
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