Oh, snap! Here’s six sneaky Snapchat secrets you might not have heard

One of the most interesting narratives that has emerged in the relatively short lifespan of social media has been the rise of Snapchat. The ephemeral social network has come to threaten the stocks of Facebook and Twitter after narrowly escaping the great Zuckerberg’s grasp (okay, maybe ‘narrowly’ is a bit of an exaggeration, but I’d imagine turning down $3 billion isn’t so easy).

Since refusing to sell to Facebook, Snapchat has been cited as a ‘the app to watch’ by business insiders. According to Bloomberg, the messaging app generates over 7 billion daily video views (up from 2 billion last May!) across 100 million daily users. But what exactly happens to those images and videos that seemingly evaporate after a few outrageous seconds? Well, according to the app’s privacy policy and terms and conditions, it looks like they don’t just get lost in the ether.

Here’s six major takeaways I found after snooping around Snapchat’s fine print:

 

  1. Your videos and pictures aren’t necessarily disappearing

About a few lines into Snapchat’s privacy policy that you come across this pretty important piece of information:

We collect the content you provide and information about that content, such as if the recipient has viewed the content, replayed the content, and the metadata that is provided with the content.” 

The word “collect” is a bit of a red flag here. Snapchat has gone on record saying that they are still committed to deleting all of the user generated content once it has been viewed and expires. However, the fineprint of the privacy policy doesn’t inspire much confidence in that sentiment. Snapchat’s privacy policy underwent some major rewrites last October that resulted in some pretty vague and general statements. Thiure language is far from reassuring that content is being actively deleted.

 

  1. Snapchat is keeping an eye on your activity

According to Snapchat’s terms and conditions, developing a user-friendly app depends on keeping track of your habits. By understanding how the product is being used, the developers are able to make changes in order to ‘enhance’ the consumer experience. This includes taking note of all the live streams you watch, what types of filters you like to experiment with, and who you like to spend your time connected to. Whether this is done with your best interests in mind is up for debate; but regardless, the app is tracking your behavior.

 

  1. They’ve got eyes on your web history, too

Snapchat also manages to take note of your mobile web browsing. According to the privacy policy:

“we may use cookies and other technologies, such as web beacons, web storage, and unique device identifiers, to collect information about your activity, browser, and device.”

Like many data mining and web tracking apps, Snapchat goes right into your browsing history to find out what your interests are. According to Business Insider, Snapchat is starting to ramp up its targeted advertising, drawing from a pool of information for millions of unique individuals.

 

  1. Your content might be shared to a wider audience

Since updating their privacy policy in October of 2015, Snapchatters may have their content shared to a much larger audience than they might have anticipated:

“content you post or send will be shared with other Snapchatters and potentially the public at large”

This is a curious statement, especially when considering their previous privacy policy stated that “delete is our default”. The privacy policy makes it unclear as to what forms of content can be potentially shared with a wider audience; however, the developers have ensured that it is completely the user’s decision. Check your privacy settings to make sure you’re not unknowingly authorizing your content to be shared en masse.

 

  1. Snapchat has been investigated for their “deleting” practices 

Okay, I might have learned about this one from a Google search. In 2013, a lawsuit was filed through the Federal Trade Commission against Snapchat by the Electronic Privacy Information Committee, asserting that Snapchat had “deceptive business practices.” In their official complaint, EPIC claims that “Snapchat photos and videos remain available to others even after users are informed that the photos and videos have been deleted.”

Snapchat since settled these allegations with EPIC and the FTC after it was proven that photos could be sent and retrieved by others after they should have vanished. As part of the settlement agreement, Snapchat is subject to 20 years of privacy audits and is prohibited from making false claims in it’s privacy policy. This is more than likely the reason behind last year’s highly criticized privacy policy revision

 

  1. Make way for advertisers

Historically, advertisers on Snapchat have been limited to running 10 second spots on the platform—but this is about to change. Recently, the app has started running ads for major movie studios including Paramount and Universal, allowing them to broadcast their branded content much longer than the original 10 second cap. The bulk of the content being distributed have been film trailers, lending themselves quite seamlessly  to the media platform (who didn’t love that Neighbors 2 trailer?). However, according to Ad Week, “Snapchat’s newest offering is the latest example of how the app is courting big advertisers to compete with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.”

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