Snapchat Settles With FTC Over Privacy Breach

May 8, 2014

Mobile messaging service Snapchat has agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over allegations that it deceived customers by collecting their user information without permission.

Snapchat’s mobile app promises users that video and photos will “disappear forever” soon after they’re sent, thus insuring privacy and safeguarding against data collection.

But according to the FTC the company “made multiple misrepresentations to consumers about its product that stood in stark contrast to how the app actually worked.”

The New York Times elaborates:

“[In] its complaint, the commission said the messages, often called snaps, can be saved in several ways. The commission said that users can save a message by using a third-party app, for example, or employ simple workarounds that allow users to take a screenshot of messages without detection.

“The complaint also said Snapchat transmitted users’ location information and collected sensitive data like address book contacts, despite its saying that it did not collect such information. The commission said the policies allowed security researchers to compile a database of 4.6 million user names and phone numbers during a recent security breach.”

The FTC says:

“Under the terms of its settlement with the FTC, Snapchat will be prohibited from misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains the privacy, security, or confidentiality of users’ information. In addition, the company will be required to implement a comprehensive privacy program that will be monitored by an independent privacy professional for the next 20 years.”

Snapchat said in a statement on Thursday: “While we were focused on building, some things didn’t get the attention they could have.

“Even before today’s consent decree was announced, we had resolved most of those concerns over the past year by improving the wording of our privacy policy, app description, and in-app just-in-time notifications,” Snapchat said. “And we continue to invest heavily in security and countermeasures to prevent abuse.”

In January, a hacker published the contents of a Snapchat database reportedly containing user names and phone numbers of 4.6 million of the service’s users.

The FTC struck a similar settlement two years ago with Facebook, which its said had “deceived customers by telling them they could keep their information on Facebook private, and then repeatedly allowing it to be shared and made public.”

And, Google was hit last year by the Trade Commission over alleged anti-trust violations.

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