Why Snapchat is Now Less ‘Private’ than WhatsApp…

imagesSo Snapchat – the mobile temporary image and video sharing app loved by under 25s – has changed its privacy policy and T&Cs and folks, it ain’t looking good. If you would like the 140 character summary, scroll straight down to the bottom of this post but for everyone else, here goes:

First and foremost in most people’s minds will be the fact that these updates coincide with the launch of ‘SnapCash’ which does exactly what you think. Snapchat users will now be able to send money to their ‘mates’ via the app, just by typing that amount into the chat screen of the app, in conversation with that friend. This will the send money via Square to your bank account. So, to put it simply Snapchat are

1) monetising image and video sharing on the internet, sorry I mean ‘moments’

2) have done a total 180 on their ‘no third party apps’ policy and

3) will now be storing your banking details along with storing not storing your images.

The security issues of all this are obviously cause for concern but bringing Square in, given their own security history, was definitely a wise move.  However, there’s also something very… seedy, in this monetisation. Seedier than say, if they’d chosen to offer this service between brands/businesses and customers straight up, rather than ‘friend to friend’.

I also find myself wondering, if so many banks already offered up this service to their customers directly (Visa gave a lot of them the software by which to do so yonks ago), and we’re all still not texting each other rent money and tipping waiters or sending pocket money via our phones… why do Snapchat think it will work for them? What is so different this time round?

Again, as mentioned in the recent post regarding why Tinder would rapidly fall off the radar, perhaps it comes down to basic human behaviour not really being thought through. To text your friend cash should be ‘so easy’ in theory but the reality for all of these apps is it involves a lengthy conversation with the other person regarding which bank they’re with, trying to find out how they’ll get the money if they’re not with that bank or have this app, how long they can access that money for, how long it will take to reach their account etc.  All incredibly boring and longwinded talk that probably involves at least 15 minutes of frantic phone googling, while planning to split a pizza at a restaurant (talk about worst date ever).

Also, SnapChat can be as ‘snappy’ with its cashy as it wants (see appalling advertisement below, which has already cranked up close to a million views and for which, unfortunately, the comments section on YouTube has been disabled) but at the end of the day if it’s still my bank talking to your bank the process may still be ‘five to seven working days’ or whatever.

But outside of SnapCash – having carefully read through the update – I believe the real story hiding behind the T&Cs is regarding privacy. A number of key issues will be raised but I believe the biggest one is:

1)  FROM NOW ON, IF YOU TAKE A SNAP THERE IS NO GUARANTEE YOUR CONTENT WILL BE DELETED FROM SNAPCHAT’S SERVERS, EVER.

This, is because (in their own words) they “can’t guarantee that messages will be deleted within a specific timeframe“. In fact, unlike WhatsApp, they provide no time frame whatsoever. Which basically means they ultimately aim to delete your pics in theory, but are not held to do so and are not obligated to do so at any stage within the next million years. Also, even if they were to delete a message the same data “may remain in backup for a limited period of time“. There is no indication as to how long or short this ‘limited’ period is either. Any period is limited that is less than infinity. SnapChat also notes (and they are very open and direct about this, in fairness to them) that 

2) SNAPCHAT “SOMETIMES RECEIVE REQUESTS FROM [US] LAW ENFORCEMENT REQUIRING US BY LAW TO SUSPEND OUR ORDINARY SERVER-DELETION PRACTICES FOR SPECIFIC INFORMATION”

So not only can they supply no specific time frame for the deletion of content but neither do they ultimately have control of that time frame, should they enforce it. Baring in mind what came to light from Assange etc. I think the important part of this part of the statement is ‘specific information’. We’re inclined to naively presume this means information pertain to certain individuals under suspicion, but actually there is nothing ‘specific’ about this specific information at all. Just as ‘all snaps between government official X and informant Y‘ for example, is a specific piece of information. However,  ‘all snaps being sent from any mobile device‘ is also, in legal terms a ‘specific piece of information’.  I also think it’s worth noting that they indicate that this is ongoing, not something that that will start to happen in the future.

In fact, throughout their T&Cs and Privacy Policy, Snapchat clearly state and reiterate that they are a U.S. based company so “keep in mind, that no matter where you live or where you happen to use our Services, you consent to the processing and transfer of information in and to the U.S. and other countries. We want you to know this because the laws of the United States and those of other countries where your information is processed might not be as comprehensive or protective as laws in the country where you live And while you’re in another country, know that your information may be made available to government or law enforcement requests.”

Outside of the content you send yourself, the other information being stored and shared is also very powerful – like who you’re in contact with, how often, how many contacts (mobile not just Snapchat) you have in common, the time of day of your contacts with this other person. Within their privacy policy they list a number of perfectly ordinary reasons for doing so – such as informing development improvements and updates, marketing, monetisation, trends etc. but the last reason stated is that

3) SNAPCHAT WILL STORE THIS INFORMATION “FOR ANY OTHER PURPOSE FOR WHICH THE INFORMATION WAS COLLECTED”

That’s right, any purpose at all.

So, in summary, by selecting ‘agree’ you are agreeing for Snapchat to indefinitely store all your snaps and chats and other information about you and your relationship with other snappers… and to share it with U.S. government and whatever other countries… and (in relation to your none ‘content’ data) any other 3rd parties interested.

So if you don’t mind any of that, then work away my snappy happy chappies!

But do tell us…

 

 

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