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Snapchat Settles FTC Charges on False Promises of Disappearing Messages

Snapchat agrees to 20 years of monitoring of new privacy program to prevent future issues.

Snapchat agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that it deceived users into believing their messages would disappear when they were actually saved and could be accessed by others, the agency announced Thursday.

The FTC complaint alleged that “Snapchat’s failure to secure its Find Friends feature resulted in a security breach that enabled attackers to compile a database of 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers.”

“If a company markets privacy and security as key selling points in pitching its service to consumers, it is critical that it keep those promises,” said FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez in a statement. “Any company that makes misrepresentations to consumers about its privacy and security practices risks FTC action.”

Last year, the Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a complaint to the FTC alleging that Snapchat’s promise of allowing users to share photos that would “disappear forever” wasn’t happening and the photos could still be viewed.

Under the terms of the FTC settlement, Snapchat will be prohibited from “misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains the privacy, security, or confidentiality of users’ information,” will be required to implement a new privacy program and will face independent monitoring for the next 20 years.

In a blog post, Snapchat said it had resolved most of the FTC’s concerns before entering into the consent decree by “improving the wording of our privacy policy, app description, and in-app just-in-time notifications.” The company acknowledged it has made mistakes in the past, noting that “while we were focused on building, some things didn’t get the attention they could have.”

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