Snapchat settles privacy complaint with FTC
Snapchat agreed to a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission on Thursday after the agency claimed the company was not forthcoming to consumers about how long messages are visible to other users.
The unique messaging service allows its users to send photos and videos to friends that "disappear" after several seconds. Friends can opt to take a screenshot, but the sender is warned in advance.
The FTC claims Snapchat "made multiple misrepresentations" about the app, including the longevity of photos and videos users sent. The agency's complaint cites workarounds users employ to avoid Snapchat's screenshot detection, as well as third-party apps that save photos or videos indefinitely.
The complaint also says Snapchat deceived users on the amount of personal data it collects and how it protects it. The FTC notes a high-profile breach tied to the Find Friends feature, which exposed the user names and phone numbers of 4.6 million users.
"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.
In a statement, Snapchat acknowledged not communicating enough with its users. "We are devoted to promoting user privacy and giving Snapchatters control over how and with whom they communicate," it read. "That's something we've always taken seriously, and always will."
Under the terms of the settlement, Snapchat will face independent monitoring from a privacy professional for 20 years and is prohibited from "misrepresenting the extent to which it maintains the privacy, security, or confidentiality of users' information."
The complaint also claims Snapchat collected Apple iOS users' contact information without permission, and failed to secure the Find Friends feature despite a warning about a potential exploit.
In January, Snapchat issued an update to fix the exploit.
Snapchat generated buzz last fall after the messaging service turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook. The social-network giant later scooped up messaging company WhatsApp for $16 billion.
Follow Brett Molina on Twitter: @bam923.