This is another “if it sounds too good to be true it just might not be” cautionary tale.  Snapchat seemed like an ideal way to send photos to friends while making sure those photos would not last forever.  The promise was that people using their app could send photos that would appear for up to 10 seconds on the recipients’ smartphones and then go poof!

That promise was not accurate as workarounds were found  that included the ability to simply take a screenshot of the photo.  Moreover, in its privacy policy, Snapchat claimed that it didn’t track or access consumers’  personal data.  The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) learned that those claims were false and deceptive because Snapchat was doing exactly that.  It transmitted geolocation information from users of its Android app and also collected iOS users’ contacts information from their address books without alerting users that Snapchat would be doing so and without first getting their consent.

The FTC announced the settlement on May 8th (www.ftc.gov; “Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False”).  Snapchat will be monitored for 20 years by the FTC to make sure it no longer makes false and/or deceptive claims to consumers about its privacy and security measures.  Additional details about the settlement can be found in the FTC announcement.

Consumers who’ve used Snapchat will want to read the FTC’s announcement to learn what  personal information Snapchat might already have sent about, or collected from, them.  Consumers considering using Snapchat will want to read the announcement to learn about the reality of the app.