Snapchat settles FTC deception charges, will be monitored for 20 years

Snapchat settles with the agency over 'false promises' around privacy

Snapchat's app on iOS.

Snapchat's app on iOS.

Snapchat has touted its mobile service as a platform for making messages vanish, but now it's being forced to own up to collecting and keeping information about users.

The company entered into an agreement Thursday with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to settle charges that it had deceived consumers by making false promises over the disappearing nature of messages sent through its app. The FTC alleged that the company deceived consumers over the amount of personal data it collected and the security measures taken to protect that data from theft or misuse.

In one incident earlier this year, security researchers uncovered a vulnerability that allowed the phone information of more than 4 million Snapchat users to be exposed.

"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," said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, in the agency's announcement. "Any company that makes misrepresentations to consumers about its privacy and security practices risks FTC action."

Snapchat has marketed its service as letting users' photos disappear "forever" after being viewed on recipients' smartphones for up to 10 seconds. But in fact there are a number of workarounds that can be employed to save the photos to users' phones, including by taking a simple screenshot.

In Snapchat's privacy policy, the company says that messages sent with its service are deleted from its servers after all recipients have viewed them. But, "there may be ways to access messages while still in temporary storage on recipients' devices, or, forensically, even after they are deleted," it also says.

"You should not use Snapchat to send messages if you want to be certain that the recipient cannot keep a copy," it says.

Among the FTC's complaints are charges that Snapchat stored video messages deep in the guts of recipients' devices, and that the company also transmitted geolocation information from Android users, despite saying in its privacy policy that it did not track or access such information, the FTC said.

In its policy, Snapchat does say that it "may collect information about the location of your device" to facilitate the use of certain features.

Under the terms of the settlement, Snapchat will be prohibited from misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains the privacy and security of users' data. It will also be required to implement a privacy program that will be monitored by a third-party privacy group for the next 20 years, the FTC said.

Snapchat could be forced to pay fines if it does not comply.

"When we started building Snapchat, we were focused on developing a unique, fast, and fun way to communicate with photos," Snapchat said in a statement on the settlement. During those building days, some things didn't get the attention they could have, "like being more precise with how we communicated with the Snapchat community," the company said.

Snapchat said it has resolved many of the FTC's concerns over the past year, partly by improving the wording of its privacy policy and app description.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags social mediaprivacymobileinternetsocial networkingmobile applicationsInternet-based applications and servicesMobile OSesSnapChat

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Zach Miners

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Mobile

Exec

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?