Your Snapchats Don't Disappear Forever, So Now We Have Another Reason To Give Evan Spiegel The Side-Eye
Bad news about Snapchat Thursday, both for the users who trusted the company and its owners now being hit in the wallet. The Federal Trade Commission, or FTC, says Snapchat is going to settle charges that it drastically misled its own users. Snapchat had always maintained that image and video messages sent through their app were temporary and fleeting in nature — that after being captured or recorded and sent, the messages would "disappear forever." As it turns out, however, this was a fib of epic proportions.
There are a number of different ways to save Snapchat messages. In the first place, there are third-party apps that facilitate as much, plus the simple means of logging images via screen capture. It is, after all, as simple as that — just pressing both buttons on and iPhone at once takes a full screen photo, whatever intentions the person sending the Snapchat had about it.
Sadly for Snapchat, the fact these loopholes exist probably didn't take the FTC very long to verify. After all, a simple Google search has yielded multiple tutorials on how to surreptitiously save Snapchats for a while. But moreover, the company was also accused of lying about its own data collection practices, claiming they weren't logging personal information like address books when they were, in fact, doing just that.
Security researchers in January successfully exposed that fact, breaching and compiling some 4.6 million names and phone numbers of Snapchat users, culled from the secretly-collected information.
The cost of Snapchat's deception, beyond the betrayed trust of those millions of users who may have sent, ahem, highly-personal things thinking they'd be erased for good, is that the company will lose some of i's autonomy. They'll now have to admit up front to users that their security systems aren't all that secure, and must launch a privacy program will will be subject to independent oversight for the next 20 years. Although, really, who thinks Snapchat will be around 20 years?
All of this, of course, gives us yet another reason to cast some major-league side-eye at Snapchat CEO and high-profile co-founder Evan Spiegel, a wealthy, already controversial tech-sector upstart at the age of 23. The common and most major criticisms of Spiegel are simple enough. First, and most seriously, that he and Snapchat co-founder Bobby Murphy may have stolen Snapchat out from under a third friend, Reggie Brown, who sued the duo last year.
Additionally, Spiegel awkwardly misrepresented an email conversation he had with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in order to make it seem he'd totally pulled a power-play on no less than the Zuck himself. This effort was ultimately defeated by the thorough work of Forbes and its fact-checkers, who exacted the full email conversation from Spiegel after he publicly balked at criticisms of his claimed behavior.
And now, we all get to add a compelling number three to that list: Speigel and his company also deceived millions of users, collected their information, and failed to protect the "ephemeral" nature of their messages — the very selling point that helped Snapchat soar to begin with. Suffice it to say, Snapchat and Spiegel have a long way to go to win back any trust.