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Snapchat settles with FTC over misleading claims, agrees to 20 years of privacy monitoring

Snapchat settles with FTC over misleading claims, agrees to 20 years of privacy monitoring

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Snapchat has settled with the FTC over complaints that its hugely popular app deceived users with the promise of "disappearing" messages. The company's early claims that messages sent through its app would permanently vanish after being viewed were misleading, the FTC said today. In its complaint, the commission calls out a variety of ways that snaps can be captured and saved indefinitely — including the old-fashioned screenshot method and third-party apps that tap into Snapchat's service.

The FTC's complaint also accuses Snapchat of duping its users over the amount of personal data the company collected. For example, at one point the Android app collected user-location data without proper permission. Worse yet, Snapchat did a poor job guarding that data; the FTC points to a massive leak of 4.6 million phone numbers and usernames as evidence of that. "The exposure of this information could lead to costly spam, phishing, and other unsolicited communications," the commission said.

The agreed-upon settlement will forbid Snapchat from ever "misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains the privacy, security, or confidentiality of users’ information." Further, Snapchat will launch a comprehensive privacy program that will be monitored for the next 20 years. To its credit, Snapchat previously resolved many of the FTC's complaints through updates to its privacy policy and improvements to the mobile app. But the company admits there's more work to do. "We are devoted to promoting user privacy and giving Snapchatters control over how and with whom they communicate," Snapchat said in a blog post. "That’s something we’ve always taken seriously, and always will."