Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False

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Snapchat, the developer of a popular mobile messaging app, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived consumers with promises about the disappearing nature of messages sent through the service.

The FTC case also alleged that the company deceived consumers over the amount of personal data it collected and the security measures taken to protect that data from misuse and unauthorized disclosure. In fact, the case alleges, Snapchat’s failure to secure its Find Friends feature resulted in a security breach that enabled attackers to compile a database of 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers.

According to the FTC’s complaint, Snapchat made multiple misrepresentations to consumers about its product that stood in stark contrast to how the app actually worked. “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. “Any company that makes misrepresentations to consumers about its privacy and security practices risks FTC action.”

Touting the “ephemeral” nature of “snaps,” the term used to describe photo and video messages sent via the app, Snapchat marketed the app’s central feature as the user’s ability to send snaps that would “disappear forever" after the sender-designated time period expired. Despite Snapchat’s claims, the complaint describes several simple ways that recipients could save snaps indefinitely.

The complaint also alleges that Snapchat collected iOS users’ contacts information from their address books without notice or consent.

Finally, the FTC alleges that despite the company’s claims about taking reasonable security steps, Snapchat failed to secure its “Find Friends” feature.

Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False Gone with the wind? (FTC) Snapchat Settles FTC Charges (Wall Street Journal) FTC cracks down on Snapchat (Politico) FTC says Snapchat misled users about “disappearing” photos, failed to secure personal data (GigaOm) Snapchat Settles Charges With F.T.C. That It Deceived Users (NYTimes) Feds settle with Snapchat over data claims (The Hill)