Snapchat Settles With FTC Over Its Users Being Idiots


Eddie Codel/Flickr

Snapchat is a smartphone app, launched in 2011, that bills itself as an ephemeral messaging service. Photos or videos sent from one Snapchat user to another will automatically disappear from a recipient's device and the Snapchat servers after a matter of seconds. Of course, a matter of seconds is all it takes to screengrab something on an iPhone—as some users have learned the hard way

But because some users didn't realize that Snapchat wasn't magic, the company found itself under scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). According to the FTC, Snapchat was engaging in deceptive marketing by saying photos would "disappear forever," since it's actually possible for users to make copies of private images via screenshotting or employ third-party apps that record all onscreen behavior. 

To be fair, the FTC's complaint against Snapchat also involved a more serious allegation: that Snapchat had been accessing names and phone numbers of Apple device users' friends without telling them, according to TIME. It also faulted the app for security flaws which allowed hackers to find and post millions of users' names and phone numbers online. 

Snapchat didn't formally admit to any wrongdoing, but it did reach an agreement with the FTC. Under the agreement, Snapchat must be explicit about how images may be used and copied and must tighten up programs to protect user data. The company must also undergo FTC review every two years, with any violations of the agreement resulting in fines of up to $16,000 per transgression. 

"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," a Snapchat spokesperson told CNET. "And we continue to invest heavily in security and countermeasures to prevent abuse."

Today, Snapchat's privacy policy makes clear that it "cannot prevent others from making copies of your messages (e.g., by taking a screenshot). … In addition, as for any other digital information, there may be ways to access messages while still in temporary storage on recipients' devices or, forensically, even after they are deleted. You should not use Snapchat to send messages if you want to be certain that the recipient cannot keep a copy." 

In other words: the basic rules of the digital communication still apply. And yet many Snapchat users were inclined to forget this. The FTC seems to think this is Snapchat's fault. But shouldn't responsibility for prudent use of an app lie with those who choose to use it? 

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  1. …”It also faulted the app for security flaws which allowed *the NSA* to find and post millions of users’ names and phone numbers online.”…

    Yeah, well, talk to Obo


  3. But shouldn’t responsibility for prudent use of an app lie with those who choose to use it?

    Most users who don’t have significant tech training can’t really distinguish any of this stuff from magic. And one of the greatest triumphs of the tech industry is that they shouldn’t have to know. So they might think that a marketing claim like SnapChap made is legitimate. I’d rather this go through the courts than have a heavy hand of a federal regulator dealing with it. And 20 years is insane. The company won’t even be around in its current form 4 years from now.

    1. Didn’t the FTC also rack up a multiple-decade settlement with Facebook a few years ago?

      It’s such an odd thing to see settlements for that long. Like the regulator thinks it’s relevant.

      1. It’s not odd when you realize the regulators are fucking morons who have no fucking clue how the tech industry works. Besides, as far as they’re concerned, everyone will get a bailout, right? Because money is infinite.

        1. Probably gives some bureaucrat a position “monitoring” compliance for 20 years.

          Maybe even a team.

  4. OT:

    Even Janet Yellen and the CBO agree that deficits (and, by implication, spending, although they don’t quite say that) are out of control and unsustainable:


    1. Maybe they’re arguing that taxation is too low.

    2. I predict that by 2030, we will be saddled with a fed chair who will advocate the end of the income tax in favor of monetary inflation. The Senate won’t even need to pass a budget then.

  5. I’m disappointed that the cell phones we had when I was younger could only be used for making phone calls and playing Snake.

  6. Didn’t Snapchat actively notify users if a screenshot had been taken?

  7. “What’s to stop you from just taking a screencap of the naked pics?” was the first thing I thought of when I first heard of Snapchat.

    Jesus Christ, people are idiots.

  8. “Today, Snapchat’s privacy policy makes clear that it “cannot prevent others from making copies of your messages (e.g., by taking a screenshot)…”
    That’s great, since nobody, especially the kind of people who think they can safely send photos of their privates over the internet, reads the stupid privacy policy anyway. Typical government non-solution to a non-problem. Doesn’t have any practical effect, but it lets some government bully enjoy making productive citizens understand how tenuous their hold on their own livelihood is.

  9. OMG WHAT?!
    /Carlos Danger

  10. I’d bet, somewhere in an undisclosed facility, there’s a folder labelled “Snapchat nude selfies”.

  11. “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke

    Amazingly, a lot of people in the 21st Century seem to believe in magic. . . who’d’a ever thunk it?

  12. We all here want to know how to hack snapchat online and this is the exact way to have the password here.

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