• Snapchat Settles FTC Charges of Deception
  • May 27, 2014 | Authors: Nathan S. Cardon; Tracy P. Marshall; Sheila A. Millar; Jean-Cyril Walker
  • Law Firm: Keller and Heckman LLP - Washington Office
  • The photo and messaging app Snapchat has agreed to settle with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) allegations that it misrepresented the quantity of consumer data it collected and stored and falsely claimed that its messages would disappear. In marketing its privacy features, Snapchat stated that users could send photos or video messages (“snaps”) that would only be viewable for a brief period before “disappearing forever.” The FTC alleged that the app’s claimed function was in “stark contrast” to reality, saying messages could be easily saved by conducting simple workarounds, taking screenshots, and using third-party apps to save the data.

    The FTC also alleged that Snapchat failed to adequately protect its “Find Friends” feature, failed to disclose that it gathered sensitive information from consumer address books, and did not directly inform consumers when it began disseminating geolocation information. The lax security surrounding the “Find Friend” feature allowed security researchers to compile a database of 4.6 million users’ names and phone numbers. Snapchat’s privacy policy, published between 2011 and 2013, also allegedly failed to inform consumers that the company began collecting users’ location in 2012.

    The terms of the settlement prohibit Snapchat from making false or misleading privacy claims, require Snapchat to establish a privacy program, and require independent monitoring for 20 years.