Snapchat is a photo sharing (with a recently added messaging component) that operates under the security that each picture sent is only viewable for a certain amount of time, and then it vanishes forever. Originally created as a “safe sexing app”, Snapchat lets you share photos that you would never, well, share, on Facebook, Instagram, or any other photo-sharing site. The ethical issue is that it is promoted as safe. Each image disappears after 10 seconds. You are notified if someone takes a screen cap. But in actuality, like all things on the Internet, everything is store; information is gathered, and likely sold.

Snapchat’s Terms of Use is available here, but Andrew Couts breaks down Snapchat’s Terms of Use quite well in his article on Digital Trends.  I’ll summarize him here:

The terms of use are pretty straightforward. Snapchat lays out the terms, and tells you not to use the app if you aren’t on board. Snapchat also reserves the right to change the terms whenever they want, and will notify you, somehow. Maybe an email, maybe a Push Notification, maybe a pop up when you

Snapchat wants you to have fun, and use common sense. Don’t snap copyrighted material, don’t spam or harass.

Snapchat is for users over 13 years old (though they have a similar app for children).

Snapchat makes all users release them from all liability, including the unfortunate likelihood that someone will use a private photo against you. Snapchat even caps the amount that you can sue for at $1. This is all listed under their “Limitation of Liability Clause”.

Snapchat collects a significant amount of information and may share it with third parties. Yikes.

Snapchat “temporarily process and store your images in order to provide our services.” That includes any (ahem) personal pictures you may take.

“Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case.” Again – Yikes.

 It appears that there are a lot of negative aspects to Snapchat and that their policies dance on the side of unethical. Joseph Steinberg writes on Forbes, “The illusion of security provided by Snapchat may be even more problematic, as it may encourage risky behavior. If people think that their private photos and videos can be shared in a manner that is truly self-destructing (as has been ingrained thanks to movies such as the Mission Impossible series) they are more likely to send them to others. This is especially true for teenagers – notorious for sexting and over sharing.”

Snapchat is encouraging users to share private photos, by giving them the false assurance that photos expire and then are gone forever. The service isn’t as private as it claims to be.

Do you Snapchat? Do you think the amount of scandalous content that is shared through Snapchat is reason enough to change their terms of service?

Also, don’t you think people should lay off the naked pic already?!


6 thoughts on “Snapchat

  1. Lesley,

    I totally agree! I think people do need to stop sending naked pictures, and just stay clothed. I also agree with the fact that it is more dangerous since people have the idea in their head that what they are doing is safe. What should be learned is that there is exactly what you said, everything is stored and information is gathered. Who knows what they are connecting to profiles and saving? The fact that they only let a lawsuit be filed for $1.00 is scary since it means they have already considered the possibility of being sued and have decided that they will not pay more since it would only encourage more people to sue them. Also, the fact that there are tons of articles online that teach people exactly how to save a photo from Snapchat without notifying the person on the other end is really just showing how unsafe this app really is. Great post!

    1. I’m glad I am not alone in my “keep it clothed” mantra! I do have Snapchat on my phone, but I have only used it to send pictures of my dog doing cute things. Now, I feel like I should have asked the pup’s permission!

  2. How is it so hard for people to keep their clothes on? If you really just NEED to show off your goods, what’s wrong with at least putting on a bathing suit — is that not skimpy enough? Damn kids. GET OFF MY LAWN!

    I honestly don’t know what the answer is to Snapchat’s image problem. (Haha — get it? Double entredre 😀 ) I suspect that many kids who are using it for naked or otherwise inappropriate probably wouldn’t be deterred unless they were informed “Your photos will be emailed to your parents and teachers” in big bold letters when they opened the app. I think terms and conditions that talk about sharing profile information and storing data and so on sound like a bunch of “blah, blah, blah” to the kids using them. It doesn’t seem like any real consequences could come from “shared data.” Plainer terms would help, as would making them more prominent. But unfortunately, I don’t think any extent of rewording and informing and engaging can fix stupid — in kids or adults.

    1. Haha, ah Julie, you summed up everything I think about Snapchat in your comment! You are right, people, particularly kids and teens, don’t consider consequences unless it is going to result in a grounding. I think I’ll leave my Snapchats to pictures of my dogs, and the naked picture takers and senders… well, good luck to them!

  3. Great information, Leslie! I have to admit I have a Snapchat account but I’ve only used it once. A lot of my friends are on it, but I hardly even pay attention to the notifications I get from them. Even though I openly admit I have a short attention span, something like Snapchat just doesn’t appeal to me.
    A.) I’m not sending racy photos/videos to anyone ( you’re right, enough already!)
    B.) I might like to retain what I saw for more than 6 seconds (or however long it is?)
    I think when the creators of Snapchat developed the social network they knew what they were getting into, simply by the concept. How could they not? So in that aspect, maybe their Terms and Conditions are right on. I’m not saying I agree with them, but for what the platform is, maybe the terms are appropriate (seems odd to use that word when referencing Snapchat!)
    I too think the reference of $1 lawsuit is fishy, but again they probably anticipated some of the backlash.
    I think Snapchat is probably one of those networks that would not be quick to adjust their terms. They haven’t so far, and like I’ve said they probably anticipated much of the negative publicity that has come their way.

    1. It seems hard to classify Snapchat as “ethical”, when (like you said), they clearly knew what the goal of the app was when it was created. I think they are honest, for the most part about what the user is getting into, with the exception of how they retain your photos. I also think some harder standards for age requirement would be wise as well.

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