Anyone Shocked that Snapchat's Privacy Claims Turned Out to be False?

3 years ago

Uh... Snapchat users... those images you thought disappeared forever... uh... not so much. Snapchat has finally admitted -- because they were forced to admit by the Federal Trade Commission -- that a lot of their privacy claims were false.  Images could be saved by users to be looked at a later date (or shared with the whole Internet), and the images themselves didn't magically disappear from servers.  So teens, that crotch shot you took at graduation because you thought it would be hysterical to share it with your friends on Snapchat... well, congratulations, your crotch shot can now live on forever.

In turn, Snapchat needed to rewrite their terms of service to honestly state privacy issues as well as the fact that they are collecting a lot more data on users than originally noted.

Image: Ryan Nagelmann via Flickr

I'm not sure how to state this any plainer: terms of service always benefit the company.  If it sounds as if it is skewed in the user's favour, something is probably amiss.  Knowing that the terms benefit the company and not the user, you should comport yourself with this knowledge in the back of your head.  We get it in terms of gambling: the house always win.  But we don't seem to get it with Internet sites.

Compounding the problem of overreaching data collection practices (that you give sites permission to do when you agree to their terms of service) is that sites -- such as Snapchat -- change their terms of service, so the contract you read and agreed to months ago may not be the same one in place when you go to utilize the site today.  In fact, Snapchat encourages users to visit their privacy policy every single time they utilize the site.

We may change this Privacy Policy from time to time. If we make changes, we will notify you by revising the date at the top of the policy and, in some cases, we may provide you with additional notice (such as adding a statement to our websites' homepages or sending you a notification). We encourage you to review the Privacy Policy whenever you access the Services to stay informed about our information practices and the ways you can help protect your privacy.

Therefore, it's good practice to remember two important pieces of advice: (1) nothing transmitted electronically -- either sent privately via social media or publicly placed up on the Internet -- ever disappears and (2) comport yourself knowing that true privacy doesn't really exist on the Internet.  In fact, you should take Snapchat's advice, taken straight from their terms of service:

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

The answer is not to remove yourself from social media; the answer is to use social media wisely.  Benefit from social media just as much as the site is benefiting from you by using circumspection before you sign up for a new site or post anything to the ones you already use.

Is anyone shocked that the too-good-to-be-true privacy claims offered by Snapchat turned out to be a load of rubbish?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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