FTC Has Snapchat Rein in Privacy Promises

     SAN DIEGO, Calif. (CN) – Snapchat, a popular mobile-messaging service, settled with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that the company inaccurately claimed data sent through its service would disappear after it was viewed.
     Snapchat also settled charges it allegedly transmitted users’ location and collected their address book information without notice or consent, when the “Find Friends” feature was used, the FTC said on May 8.
     Settlement terms prohibit Snapchat from misrepresenting how it maintains the privacy and confidentiality of user information. The company also must start a wide-ranging privacy program, a sort of probation, and will be independently monitored for 20 years. The company could be fined if it violates the agreement.
     The public may comment on the proposed settlement before it becomes final.
     In its complaint against Snapchat, the FTC said the app’s messages could be saved in several ways, contrary to what the company has said. Users can save a message by using a third-party app, the agency said, or employing simple workarounds that allow users to take a screen shot of messages without the sender knowing.
     The complaint also said Snapchat transmitted users’ location information and collected sensitive data like address book contacts, despite its saying that it did not collect sensitive data. The FTC said the lax policies did not secure a feature called “Find Friends” that allowed security researchers to compile a database of 4.6 million user names and phone numbers during a recent security breach.
     The images that were supposed to have been deleted were stored on the users’ phone with the file extension . NOMEDIA. If .NOMEDIA. is removed, the message is viewable again, according to the FTC’s complaint.
     Comments are due June 9.

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