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6 Things Everyone Should Know About Snapchat


It’s the latest in mobile-only image sharing, but with a twist: photos have to be taken in-app and last only from 1-10 seconds, at the sender’s discretion. From middle schoolers to the New York Times to Catholic youth minister blogs; everyone seems to be talking about it. However, they seem to be more fascinated with the fact that this exists rather than the important information Snapchat users should actually know. So I’ve done some digging, and here are 6 things you, and every other Snapchat user you know, should be aware of:

(Disclaimer: I am an avid Snapchatter myself, so I don’t write this to call them out or condemn them in any way. I just like to be informed, and I think others should too. Knowledge is, after all, power. Right? Let’s get started.)

1. How Snapchat actually collects information about you, and how they store it

“We collect information you provide directly to us. For example, we collect information when you create an account, use the Services to send or receive a message (a “Snap”), request customer support or otherwise communicate with us. The types of information we may collect include your username, password, email address, phone number, age and any other information you choose to provide. When you send or receive Snaps, we also temporarily collect, process and store the contents of the Snaps (such as photos, videos and/or captions) on our servers. The contents of Snaps are also temporarily stored on the devices of recipients. Once all recipients have viewed a Snap, we automatically delete the Snap from our servers and the Snapchat mobile application is programmed to delete the Snap from the recipients’ devices. We cannot guarantee that deletion always occurs within a particular timeframe.” (source)

So this snippet is pretty self-explanatory. Of course, the snaps themselves have to go through Snapchat’s servers, where, upon receival, they send a notification to all of those who are eligible to view it (the recepients). According to this statement within their Privacy Policy, the snaps are deleted from both the servers and the mobile devices. Ok, phew. But wait, not so fast.

2. Snapchat admits there are ways around their ‘deleted’ images

Two separate quotes here.

One from further down in the Privacy Policy:

“In addition, as for any other digital information, there may be ways to access Snaps while still in temporary storage on recipients’ devices or, forensically, even after they are deleted.”

And another from their blog:

“Also, if you’ve ever tried to recover lost data after accidentally deleting a drive or maybe watched an episode of CSI, you might know that with the right forensic tools, it’s sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted.”

If you’re a tech person you probably saw this coming. Nothing is ever, truly deleted on a server. This is where all of those people arguing that Snapchat is “100% safe” are wrong. Especially when Snapchat says in their Privacy Policy that they may share their information about you “in response to legal process or request for information…”, amongst other reasons.

3. The other reasons for Snapchat sharing your information

The full list is here, in their Privacy Policy. Check out the third and fifth in the ‘Sharing of Information’ section. Since I’m neither a lawyer nor an expert on Terms of Use-phrasing, I can only point these out because they catch my eye.

The third: “[We may share information about you] with vendors, consultants and other service providers who need access to such information to carry out work on our behalf.” Vendors? Consultants? Snapchat is simple enough to be run by a small team, what work do you need done on your behalf/Who is doing it?”

The fifth: “[We may share information about you] in order to investigate or remedy potential violations of our user agreements or policies…” I don’t think they are looking at the actual snaps that are sent. However, it seems to me like the only way to actually investigate if someone is violating the user agreements (see: “Prohibited Activities” in their Terms) is to actually see the images.

4. Snapchat has a pending complaint in the Federal Trade Commission for “Deceptive Business Practices”

Just this past May, a Washington DC-based public interest research center called EPIC (Electronic Privacy Information Center) filed a complaint against Snapchat with the Federal Trade Commission on the grounds that they aren’t being truthful in their statements about deleting the images. Or, what they call “deceptive business practices.” EPIC released a short statement on their website, but you can read the entire, official complaint here. Make of this what you will, but EPIC is legit.

5. Screenshot notifications to be disabled in iOS7

Originally reported by MacRumors, iOS7 has a minor change that pretty much doesn’t let the Snapchat app be notified of a screenshot. So, in turn, the app cannot notify you. Specifically, Apple stated: “active touches are no longer canceled when the user takes a screenshot.” So, whereas iPhones used to ‘skip’ or ‘hiccup’ when you took a screenshot as you were continuing contact with the screen, these two functionalities no longer communicate with each other. Previously, this was what made it so hard to successfully screenshot a Snapchat: you had to be quick. Not anymore, although Snapchat’s programmers are probably scrambling to do something about this. We’ll see

6. Someone is already making money out of Snapchat retrievals

Mashable reported in May about a Utah-based technology company called Decipher Forensics. They’ve even written a blog post about their research into retrieving Snapchats from Andriods. They currently only offer the service for Android systems, but they’re currently working on iOS systems. What’s the cost? Oh, just anywhere from $300-$500. Pocket money! Write this cost down as the amount of money people are willing to pay for one dangerous image of themselves.


This is my list, given my Internet research. I’ll update it once I have new information. If you see something that should be added to this list Tweet at me and I’ll revise accordingly. In any way, exercise your Snapchatting with caution.


About Álvaro J. Soltero

Álvaro is Co-Founder and Managing Editor of The Social U. He is currently a Senior at Tufts University majoring in Cognitive & Brain Science and minoring in Entrepreneurial Leadership. He just spent his summer interning for LEWIS Pulse, a social media PR agency in San Francisco, and he is currently a blogger and inbound marketing intern for a Boston startup called Leaf.

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