Oh Snap! Snapchat Admits Photos & Videos Won’t Disappear Forever

If you think your Snapchat photos and videos really disappear after those few seconds, think again.


The mobile app’s popularity is largely driven by the fact that it auto-deletes the photo or video file just seconds after the receiver sees it, but, according to recent news, this feature has been a bit misleading; Pictures won’t disappear forever, and data is collected.

Since 2011, Snapchat has become one of the most popular and controversial social media apps on the market for iPhone and Android users. Teenagers, the largest demographic on the social app, can’t get enough of it. Investors love its $800 million value, and brands are embracing the photo-video-sharing service as a part of their social media strategy. Parents fear it, as they hear about the lawsuits and disputes over explicit photo sharing and privacy concerns, and hackers are easily having fun with it. Even with the unsavory reputation and growing amount of competitors, Snapchat was voted the Best Mobile App  at the 2013 Crunchies.

But, despite its popularity, Snapchat has a few kinks to work out. For example, Snapchat began 2014 with nearly 4.6 million users falling victim to hackers. This revelation was made after a complaint from the Federal Trade Commission, which accused the app service of secretly “recording user’ physical location,” (PRDaily) while their usernames and partial phone numbers were made available for download by hackers across the web.  According to Forbes, a database of Snapchat user information was uploaded to the website SnapchatDB.info. The site is now down, but before the shutdown, the text on the page warned that the leaked users’ names and phone numbers could leave digital clues leading to Facebook and Twitter accounts. A more recent incident involved a hacker who sent images of fruits along with the address of a spam website to users.

Snapchatwas forced to admit to the Federal Trade Commission that images sent through the app are not exactly permanently deleted. According to The Drum:

The FTC points out that third-party apps can be used to log into the Snapchat service, and because the deletion feature only functions in the official Snapchat app, recipients can view and save snaps indefinitely.

Here’s a “snap” of what Snapchat had to say about the incident in a recent blog post:

While we were focused on building, some things didn’t get the attention they could have. One of those was being more precise with how we communicated with the Snapchat community.

This morning we entered into a consent decree with the FTC that addresses concerns raised by the commission. Even before today’s consent decree was announced, we had resolved most of those concerns over the past year by improving the wording of our privacy policy, app description, and in-app just-in-time notifications. And we continue to invest heavily in security and countermeasures to prevent abuse.”


The FTC also claimed that Snapchat stored video snaps unencrypted on the recipient’s device in a location outside the app’s “sandbox,” meaning that the videos remained accessible to recipients who simply connected their device to a computer and accessed the video messages through the device’s file directory.

A website up by Gibson Security lets users check if their data has been leaked. If an account has been compromised, the phone number associated with the user name will appear with the last two digits omitted.

So, before you snap any scandalous pics or unflattering videos, you might want to weigh out the consequences.


4 responses to “Oh Snap! Snapchat Admits Photos & Videos Won’t Disappear Forever

  1. Wow! Thanks for posting this. I use Snapchat 24/7 and didn’t know about all of this. Such valuable information! After I read your post, I went on the app and viewed the “Terms of Use,” “Privacy Policy” and “Support” information under Settings to inform myself even more!

    I agree with you that it is VERY controversial! People think after 10 seconds their explicit photos they take will go away, but think again! Even when I go out, I’ll think about if I want to snap my drink or whatever it is in front of me. After learning about our online personas, I’ve been more protective of what I send out to the public. Although, I know that I’m sending it to my friends only! I know there is an option on Snapchat in which you can choose to let every user on Snapchat snap you but who wants that? I’m not shocked that Snapchat was voted the Best Mobile App. It’s so simple to use and share! I am SUPER cautious with my usernames and passwords. Recently on Tumblr, I got an email saying “You might want to change your password due to inconveniences of hackers.” It’s just like in Chapter 5 of our book where they talk about guidelines… Tumblr was letting me know that there is a protection problem so I made myself known to the problem and helped my situation out!

    Again, thank you for being informative!

  2. I actually read about this a while ago and it is still a hot button issue. To be perfectly honest, Snapchat is one of the least morally sound app companies I’ve ever encountered, but of course I still use it because I’m in love with the technology.

    There was another scandal that came to light when this one did. The reports showed transcripts of crass emails between the creators when they first thought up the app. It was essentially designed as the ultimate “sexting” app. They got a lot of backlash but with such widespread popularity they weren’t affected very much.

    Back to the original issue though, the issue was even deeper than the data not really deleting. There was never any infrastructure within the servers or the app for photos to be deleted. They simply changed the file name so that the link (the notification you receive in the app) becomes broken. It was clever of the builders, but honestly ridiculous. They also came out as saying the photos being sent we’re periodically reviewed by staff which creeps me out when I think about the things people are sending.

    Long story short, Snapchat is a mess of a company but they are great at what they do, be that good or bad. Now with the recent update, people will only use it more and more, but hopefully they won’t use it to send inappropriate content.

  3. Dana,
    After the “Online Persona” assignment I’m definitely a lot more conservative with what I post (especially on Twitter), too! With your Tumblr password email, I’ve been getting a lot of those emails too, even from eBay! I have to keep resetting my passwords and then I forget them because they’re so much harder to remember now with all of the special characters and uppercase/lowercase requirements. It’s crazy, especially when you have a zillion social accounts! Glad you solved the problem!

  4. Laura,
    It’s funny that you said that, because I feel the same way (and I think most of SnapChat’s users do too!)- “SnapChat is one of the least morally sound app companies I’ve ever encountered, but of course I still use it because I’m in love with the technology.” Agreed.

    I read about the sexting scandal with the app when I was sifting through articles- it was a hot topic amongst fired up parents of teens. Go figure.

    “There was never any infrastructure within the servers or the app for photos to be deleted. They simply changed the file name so that the link (the notification you receive in the app) becomes broken.” — I wondered how they were able to do that, thanks for the info! That’s crazy. There’s still a lot of backlash and I don’t think that will go away anytime soon.

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