Snapchat Agrees to Settle with FTC Over Deceptive Marketing

The Federal Trade Commission recently charged Snapchat of deceiving users about the privacy of their personal data and their image and video messages. Under the terms of a new settlement with the FTC, Snapchat will be required to implement a privacy program that will be independently monitored for the next 20 years. If Snapchat violates the agreement, the company may be subject to fines. Snapchat has reportedly resolved most of the privacy issues over the past year.

“The settlement is the latest revelation that much of what is shared over the Web and through mobile devices is at risk for interception or eventual retrieval, even if the hardware and software companies that transmit them promise otherwise. Security vulnerabilities have been exposed at major banks, corporations and retailers around the globe and at many startups,” reports The New York Times.

The FTC alleges that Snapchat deceived users by marketing their messages as “disappearing forever.” Third party apps and screenshots still allow users to save Snapchat messages and video files that were not encrypted, so videos could be accessed through the phone’s file directory if it was connected to a computer.

Although the mobile messaging app did add a feature to notify users when a screenshot was taken, the FTC said Apple users running operating systems that predate iOS 7 could avoid detection.

Though Snapchat assured users that it did not collect personal data, the company did track location information and address book contacts.

“A security breach in January allowed hackers to collect the usernames and phone numbers of some 4.6 million Snapchat users,” according to the Associated Press. Since, Snapchat has resolved the security issue and users can opt out of the “find friends” feature, which would utilize address book contacts.

“As part of the settlement, Snapchat must implement a privacy program that will be monitored by an outside privacy expert for the next 20 years,” AP notes. “The arrangement is similar to privacy settlements that Google, Facebook and Myspace have agreed to in recent years.”

Snapchat wrote on its blog, “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. And we continue to invest heavily in security and countermeasures to prevent abuse.”