Mobile app Snapchat, which allows user to send temporary messages, reached a settlement with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The two parties found a compromise to avoid a lawsuit which would have been severely detrimental to the company.
In a lengthy statement, the Commission reported multiple misrepresentations made to consumers by Snapchat, particularly with regards to how the app works. The ephemeral nature of messages, which made the app successful, was extensively questioned. The FTC noted that messages can be saved easily through screen shots. In previous versions of Snapchat, the sender received notice of any screen shot by the recipient, but it is no longer the case now. The statement further noted that there are several ways whereby photo or video messages can be saved without impediment.
The FTC listed a significant number of complaints concerning Snapchat: transmission of the user’s geolocation and address book information without his/her consent or even lack of security in message encryption. In late 2013, the personal data of nearly 5 million users was retrieved by hackers owing to this lack of security.
It is precisely to avoid a lawsuit that Snapchat agreed to the settlement, which inter alia prohibits the company from altering its confidentiality, security and privacy policies. The settlement specifically provides that the activities of the company in respect of the aforementioned will be subject to independent monitoring for the next 20 years.
The settlement between the company and the Commission will be subject to public comments until June 9, 2014, at which point it should be signed by the two parties and thereafter approved in court. The FTC’s commitment towards a responsible collection of personal data is commendable. While increasing volumes of data are collected on a daily basis, consumer privacy must be remain a key concern for companies and states.
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