The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced earlier this month that Snapchat, a popular image and video sending application, suffered an alleged security breach in January this year when the names and numbers of approximately 4.6 million users were said to have been collected from Apple iOS devices. It is reported that Snapchat collected this information without any notification or change in the user’s consent, creating a breach which contradicts their customer promise. To prevent this from happening again, the FTC agreement requires Snapchat to implement a new “comprehensive privacy program” whilst being monitored for the next 20 years by an independent privacy professional.
Snapchat commented in a blog post saying “while we were focusing on building, some things didn’t get the attention they could have”. The breach occurred with the new “Find a Friend” feature, which had already had previous worry from security experts. The app’s maker falsely marketed the features as being “ephemeral” messages that once viewed, disappear into the ether. Although messages do in fact disappear after a few seconds, users were deceived and withheld the knowledge that images sent can in fact be retrieved by 3rd party applications, as well as smartphones containing print-screen features, allowing a photographic copy of the image to be stored indefinitely.
A spokesperson from the FTC says “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”. Over 700 million photos and videos are sent each day via Snapchat, transforming them into somewhat of a success story after declining a multi-billion dollar offer from Facebook, however whether success will continue after the recent security breach is unknown.