Snapchat tries to calm everyone down after privacy outcry

As often happens, the internet went nuts over the weekend. The cause? A change to Snapchat's privacy policy. Rumours spread like a disease that the blink-and-you'll-miss-it messaging service was not only storing users' posts, but also taking ownership of them.

Snapchat has responded to the public outcry, explaining that this is simply not the case. But having spread around the world via mainstream media, the rumour may be hard to quash - perhaps the app's Ghostface Chillah mascot spooked people over Halloween.

The privacy policy change didn't actually happen this weekend, but last week. It took a day or two for people to take the time to read through the changes and subsequently misinterpret them, all leading to this weekend's hullabaloo. Snapchat took to Twitter in an attempt to reassure people:

In a separate blog post, the company confirmed that any messages "are automatically deleted from our servers once we detect that they have been viewed or have expired":

Of course, a recipient can always screenshot or save your Snaps or Chats. But the important point is that Snapchat is not - and never has been - stockpiling your private Snaps or Chats. And because we continue to delete them from our servers as soon as they're read, we could not - and do not - share them with advertisers or business partners.

The post also explains that the Live Stories feature - in which Snaps are shared around the world - requires permission from users, hence Snapchat's privacy policy making reference to use of posted content. It also clarifies why there were revisions to the Privacy Policy and Terms of Use documents:

The main thing we did was to rewrite the Terms and Privacy Policy so that they'd read the way people actually talk. We always try to be upfront and clear with our community. We added language to the Terms of Service regarding in-app purchases. We needed to do that now that we're selling Replays - and have some other cool products and services we’re looking forward to bringing to you soon. To make it a little easier for friends to find you on Snapchat, we’ve clarified what info - like your name - will be visible to other Snapchatters and how you can modify that info.

David Emm, Principle Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab commented: "With the recent changes to Snapchat’s terms and conditions, the company has signaled its turn away from simply offering an app that gives people the possibility to secretly send pictures to friends.

"Snapchat is not the first company that has tried to find new means of income by selling pictures. Instagram, owned by Facebook, tried something similar, but subsequently reverted to their previous terms and conditions after the community pressure reached giant dimensions. Using Snapchat following the changes does not mean that your pictures will necessarily show up on the next advertisement board: but it may be a good idea to think about what could happen to your photos, because as a customer you do not have the possibility of tracking where, when and by whom your pictures are accessed and used.

"This can lead to a serious breach of your privacy. We would reiterate what we always say about pictures on the internet: think about what you are posting before you do so, because you may not have any control over what happens to those pics. Snapchat’s current change of T&Cs demonstrates that clearly."

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