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FTC finalizes privacy settlement with Snapchat over 'deceived' users

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Few expected any obstacles, but the Federal Trade Commission has approved a final order settling its charges against Snapchat that will see the popular ephemeral messaging startup held to stricter privacy policies over the next 20 years. The original complaint, revealed in May, accused Snapchat of deceiving its millions of users "with promises about the disappearing nature of messages sent through the service."

The FTC was displeased after it was discovered that sent snaps and content included in them could be recovered in certain circumstances or with third-party tools. That ran counter to Snapchat's underlying, fleeting concept: most consumers think everything they send off to friends will vanish once the preset counter runs down. The complaint also dinged Snapchat for collecting a user's contact list without permission and maintaining alarmingly loose security practices around the massively successful app.

After a public comment period, the settlement has been approved by the FTC. Per the finalized terms, Snapchat must now implement a "comprehensive" privacy program to be monitored by an independent privacy professional for the next 20 years. The company is also barred "from misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains the privacy, security, or confidentiality of users’ information," though it won't face any direct fines or financial penalty. It doesn't seem the FTC complaint has caused much of a problem on Snapchat's end. Recently users gained a new Square-powered money transfer feature, and the company has begun experimenting with ads as well — all in a bid to turn Snapchat's huge growth into eventual profits.