The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced in a May 8 Press Release that Snapchat has agreed to settle charges that it “deceived consumers with promises about the disappearing nature of messages sent through the service.” In addition, the FTC alleged that Snapchat misled consumers over how much personal data it collected and over how secure that data was. Snapchat’s lack of proper security measures allegedly led to a security breach that exposed 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers. “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,” stated FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez.
Snapchat advertised that messages sent through its app would “disappear forever” after the time period expired, but FTC found several simple ways that recipients could save snaps indefinitely. One way was for consumers to use a third-party app, and even though a security researcher warned the company that this was possible, Snapchat continued to advertise that messages would disappear forever.
According to the complaint, the FTC also found
*that Snapchat stored video snaps unencrypted on the recipient’s device in a location that was easily accessible by connecting the device to a computer and looking in the file directory.
*that Snapchat told users that they would be notified if a recipient took a screenshot of a snap, but if a recipient’s device had an operating system pre-dating iOS 7, he/she could bypass the app’s screenshot detection feature and the sender would not be notified.
*that Snapchat collected iOS users’ contacts information from their address books without notice or consent.
*that although Snapchat claimed to take reasonable security steps, it failed to secure its “Find Friends” feature and failed to verify users’ mobile phone numbers, so some people had their phone number hijacked and linked to a Snapchat account without their knowledge.
As part of the settlement, Snapchat has agreed not to misrepresent the extent to which it maintains the privacy, security, or confidentiality of users’ information and has agreed to implement a comprehensive privacy program that will be monitored by an independent privacy professional for the next 20 years.
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