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Snapchat settles with FTC for misrepresenting its ephemeral nature, gathering user data

Billy Steele
05.08.14
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Snapchat has been a popular choice for those looking to send temporary messages that will soon disappear forever. Well, the auto-erase feature wasn't without flaws, and now the mobile outfit has settled with the Federal Trade Commission over it. The FTC has announced that it had reached an agreement with Snapchat for misleading users about the ephemeral focus of the app, after the commission found that users could easily save messages with third-party apps and other tricks. Despite claims to the contrary, the complaint alleges that the software gobbled up location details and other user info (like contacts) which allowed researchers to build a database of over four million user names and their matching phone numbers.

Snapchat was also accused of storing sent videos on recipients' devices in a repository outside of the app's auto-clearing sandbox, making them accessible when connected to a computer and searching the file directory. "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." As part of the settlement, Snapchat also faces monitoring from an "independent privacy professional" for the next 20 years.

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