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Snapchat Privacy Settlement: What Users Need to Know

By Brett Snider, Esq. | Last updated on

Snapchat settled with the FTC on Thursday over privacy complaints and allegations of misleading advertising.

The app that has touted its video and picture messages as "ephemeral" now has to eat those words. As Ars Technica reports, it's possible to save "snaps" both inside and outside the app, contrary to Snapchat's claims that user messages and images would "disappear forever."

So what should Snapchat users know about this settlement?

Snapchat Set to Step Up Security

By the terms of its settlement with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Snapchat needs to update its privacy practices and patch up some security issues. Users should already be aware that Snapchat is vulnerable to hackers, so this update -- whenever it comes -- may be a breath of fresh digital air.

Privacy Will Be Reviewed by a 3rd Party for 20 Years

Perhaps because the FTC didn't trust Snapchat to make changes on its own, the app maker has agreed to allow a third-party privacy monitor to periodically review and evaluate its changes. This isn't an unheard-of practice; Apple has a court-ordered monitor to ensure it complies with the terms of a recent antitrust judgment.

This monitor will make evaluations in about six months from this settlement, and then once every two years for a total of 20 years. Hopefully Snapchat can get its act together by 2034.

Don't Trust That Your 'Snaps' Will Disappear

Snapchat is not admitting to any of the allegations that photos and videos can be saved by recipients of "snaps," but users shouldn't take that as comforting. Settlements, like Snapchat's settlement with the FTC, release companies from admitting fault, but that doesn't mean the allegations aren't true.

Try to use some discretion in what you send and to whom. Otherwise, you may be looking up your state's revenge porn laws.

Pay Close Attention to Updates

The FTC alleged that not only did Snapchat misrepresent the lifespan of "snaps," it also accused the app maker of secretly collecting data from users. Whether it was friends' contact info from iOS users' address books or geolocation data from Android users, Snapchat was apparently taking a good bit of data without asking.

That doesn't mean Snapchat will stop collecting data. It may just ask users' permission in future updates. Before you blindly click through another screen in the app to get to your messages, make sure you read what you're agreeing to.

Consider this before sending another questionable "snap."

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