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Snapchat lied: your snapchats don't actually disappear

The logo of mobile app 'Snapchat' is displayed on a tablet on January 2, 2014 in Paris
The logo of mobile app 'Snapchat' is displayed on a tablet on January 2, 2014 in Paris
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

On Thursday, Snapchat settled with the Federal Trade Commission over charges that the company lied when it claimed the service's messages disappeared forever. Having messages that disappear forever is Snapchat's defining feature, one that made it worth a reported $3 billion in Facebook's eyes.

The FTC spelled out a variety of ways that Snapchat's deletion process was bungled. One of them was as simple as not updating your iPhone's operating system. "In fact, any recipient with an Apple device that has an operating system pre-dating iOS 7 can use a simple method to evade's the app screenshot detection, and the app will not notify the sender," the FTC explained.

The FTC also highlighted the lack of security and privacy for its Find Friends feature, which opened the app to a data breach a few months ago that exposed 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers to hackers. FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez explained:

Snapchat's explanation is that the app's deletion feature was just something they forgot to pay attention to. The company glosses over the FTC settlement and released a statement saying that the core feature of their app was one of the things "that didn’t get the attention they could have."

Saying these key features were something they overlooked while building other things, would kinda be like if the fire department showed up to your burning house empty handed and apologized for forgetting the water.

"One of the ways we learned was by making mistakes, acknowledging them, and fixing them," the company also said. "We are devoted to promoting user privacy and giving Snapchatters control over how and with whom they communicate. That’s something we’ve always taken seriously, and always will."

Snapchat won't have to pay anything in the settlement, but "if Snapchat is found to violate the agreement, the company could end up paying a civil penalty of up to $16,000 for each violation," the AP reports.