Snapchat Updates Privacy Policy

New today: Snapchat has updated its Privacy Policy and Terms of Service for the first time since November 2014. A lot has changed in a year in the social app landscape and with Snapchat itself, but other than changes that deal with in-app purchases and some of the other new features that Snapchat offers, not much has changed here.

In reading the documents, though, we came across two things that could be of particular interest to parents. Here is the first:
Snapchat-logo

“No one under 13 is allowed to create an account or use the Services. We or our partners may offer additional Services with additional terms that may require you to be even older to use them. By using the Services, you state that…you can form a binding contract with Snapchat—meaning that if you’re between 13 and 17, your parent or legal guardian has reviewed and agreed to these Terms”

Have parents read the Terms and Privacy Policy? Probably not. This is significant because we believe that most parents are not on Snapchat, and therefore don’t have practical knowledge of how it works. It is also true that many or most of the 13 – 17 year old crowd is using Snapchat. Exact current numbers are impossible to come to but we can tell you:

Has your teen agreed to anything sinister on your behalf when it comes to Snapchat? Not really, and as a matter of fact so far they’ve avoided the type of privacy evolution that gives users less control over their data over time, a la Facebook.

There is no smoking gun with respect to Snapchat privacy other than possibly the second thing we found interesting:

Snapchat’s Privacy Policy does remind users that a primary feature of the app is far from a given – that is, that pictures disappear after having been viewed. Indeed, there are many situations in which your data and/or pictures are not actually deleted, at least not immediately and perhaps not ever.

  • “users who see your messages or any other content you provide can always save them, either by taking a screenshot or by using some other image-capture technology”
  • “Some of our services, such as My Story, Replay, and Live, allow users to interact with the messages and content you provide through the services for a longer period of time”
  • “We can’t guarantee that messages and corresponding metadata will be deleted within a specific timeframe”
  • “we may also retain certain information in backup for a limited period of time or as required by law”
  • “We also sometimes receive requests from law enforcement requiring us by law to suspend our ordinary server-deletion practices”
  • “other companies use cookies, web beacons, and other tracking technologies on the services. These companies may collect information about how you use the services and other websites and online services over time and across different services”

Although some teens are up to no good on Snapchat, the app itself is not inherently bad. Sexting, cyberbullying and other risky or inappropriate activities take place on other apps and social media as well – simply downloading Snapchat is not a gateway to these activities. We do encourage parents to understand what the rules and terms are, so they can be forearmed in guiding appropriate teen behavior.

Edit as of 10/30/2015 – The following has been brought to our attention – some people think that Snapchat now has broader rights to use your photos. We’re not so sure. We will be updating this post soon. From Snapchat’s Terms of Service:

“But you grant Snapchat a worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, create derivative works from, publicly perform, broadcast, distribute, syndicate, promote, exhibit, and publicly display that content in any form and in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed). We will use this license for the limited purpose of operating, developing, providing, promoting, and improving the Services; researching and developing new ones; and making content submitted through the Services available to our business partners for syndication, broadcast, distribution, or publication outside the Services.”

That is bad.

 

 

 

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Can Police Obtain Disappearing Snapchat Pictures?

For at least some of its 100 million users, Snapchat is the go-to app for sending pictures that should never see the light of day. Want to send a nude selfie? Use Snapchat. Working on a drug deal? Use Snapchat. The pictures disappear so the evidence is gone. At least that’s how it’s supposed to work.

snapchat-logoThis week Snapchat unveiled its first Transparency Report – a rundown of all official government requests for user data and Snapchat’s response history – and the info might give some users pause.

For the period November 1, 2014 through February 28, 2015, Snapchat received 403 requests from government entities regarding user accounts, breaking down as follows:

  • 375 from the U.S.
  • 28 from foreign governments

Snapchat supplied some or all of the data requested in 92% of the U.S. cases and 21% of the foreign government cases.

If the pics disappear, you might be wondering what exactly the governments might be hoping to retrieve. It’s instructive to look at the most recent version of Snapchat Guide for Law Enforcement to see what is really happening.

  • Snapchat keeps (and can turn over) pics for 30 days in the event that they haven’t been viewed by all recipients
  • Snapchat retains records of meta data for all messages sent and received – to/from, date and time – but not the message content, and will turn over this data in response to a search warrant
  • Snapchat has the personal info that you supplied on file – user name, email address, phone number and the date the account was created

For furtive Snapchat users, the principal risk remains the chance that a recipient takes a screenshot of your picture, or otherwise manages to capture it before it is destroyed, then forwards that pic or posts it somewhere online. It is true, however, that Snapchat does have records that it will turn over to law enforcement – a fact that makes it an imperfect solution for covering your tracks if you are up to no good.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

Work at a high school or college? We have custom solutions for monitoring dangerous or inappropriate activity. Learn more.

Follow us on Twitter or Facebook for more news and information on keeping your teens safe online. You can also sign up for our weekly newsletter below.