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Snapchat Exposed

Why I'm Deleting My Account

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“I look pretty horrible in this picture, but my friends will only be able to see it for a maximum of 10 seconds, so I’ll just add it to my story.”


Snapchat’s appeal lies in its promise that you can send a picture to an individual, or add it to your story and the picture will disappear after 10 seconds (unless whoever you sent it to replayed it, but then Snapchat would tell you.) This knowledge that the life of our pictures is brief may cause us to be less intentional about the things we are sending. I know friends who have used Snapchat to talk to guys they were interested in, tempting my friends to send less-than-kosher photos of themselves.


Sure, my shirt was a little low, but the picture will only last for 10 seconds, so what does it matter. I’ll even change the amount of time to 3 seconds.


But we feel a false sense of security, because Snapchat will tell us if the person we send a picture to screenshotted it– that way we can always ask them to delete the picture.


As one of the most popular social media outlets of our time, Snapchat has become a necessary app in the life of a millennial. Yik Yak, Vine, and Twitter have fallen prey to becoming outdated social media outlets, but Snapchat seems to be here to stay.


You know how every once in awhile a company changes their terms of service or privacy policy, and they make you agree to the changes again? One of the most frequent lies Americans tell is when they click that button that says, “I have read all of the terms of service and accept them.” Two days ago, I had that annoying little red 1 on my Snapchat app, and so naturally I had to check it to make the notification go away. Snapchat was informing me that they changed their privacy policy, and that I had to re-accept the changes.


For some reason, I felt compelled to click the link to read the privacy policy changes. And I’m glad I did. I was shocked at how much information I had unknowingly shared over the years with Snapchat’s company. I felt invaded, and I think after reading some of the things you are sharing by using their app, you will feel the same way.


Now I want to share with you what I learned about their privacy policy; this way you are in-the-know without having to sift through the pages of information like I did.


Here are some highlights of the most concerning things on their privacy policy:

  • Snapchat keeps files of all of the snaps that you send to your friends.
  • Snapchat collects all of the information you have on your phone that you are using: your internet searches, your wifi password, your phone number, your contacts, etc.
  • Snapchat views and collects all of the pictures on your phone, whether they were taken through Snapchat or not
  • Snapchat constantly knows your location, even when you are not signed into the app.To directly quote the policy, Snapchat states, “We may also collect information about your precise location using methods that include GPS, wireless networks, cell towers, Wi-Fi access points, and other sensors, such as gyroscopes, accelerometers, and compasses.” So if someone hacks Snapchat, or if someone who works for Snapchat is a creep, they can track down exactly where you are at any given moment.
    • Snapchat states multiple times in their policy that they “use your precise location data.”
  • Snapchat follows your internet activity and uses cookies without your consent.
  • Snapchat collects information from any other apps you use on your phone, and they keep that information without your consent.
  • Snapchat collects your debit/credit card information if you have provided it on another service.
  • Snapchat has the right to store any information digitally on your device without your consent.
  • Snapchat collects all information, including your precise location, and freely sends it to other companies. As stated in their policy,  they “may let other companies use cookies, web beacons, and similar tracking technologies on [their] services. These companies may collect information about how you use [their] services and other websites and online services over time and across different services… to better understand your online activity.”
  • Snapchat doesn’t give a definitive date that they will delete any of your snaps or any other information. They say that, “we cannot promise that deletion will occur within a specific timeframe”
  • If you want to change your privacy settings in Snapchat, they “may charge a fee.”
  • Snapchat states that they will share your information “with all Snapchatters, our business partners, and the general public…in the United States and other countries outside of where you live.”
    • When Snapchat shares this information, they assume that in pressing the “Accept” button “you acknowledge and agree that [they] are not responsible for how those third parties collect or use your information.”


Sadly, there were a lot more things I could include from their privacy policy, but I boiled it down to what I found to be most concerning.


I have always been a fan of Snapchat; it’s about as quick as texting and it’s easy to use. But after reading their privacy policy, I’m deleting my account. I’m not comfortable with Snapchat having the ability to track my precise location, or have free control over everything else I am doing on my iPod (because I’m old school and don’t have a smartphone) or send anything they want to any company they want.


My main purpose in making you aware of these policies was not to try to convince you to delete your account, although I do think you should consider it. I am rather trying to make you more intentional about what you are posting and inform you of how much information you are sharing. Even when you aren’t using certain apps on your phone, the amount of personal information they are gathering is pretty insane. I’m not asking you to become Ron Swanson (if you haven’t seen Parks and Recreation, you must) or to read every single policy statement for all the apps you use. But I am saying you should be considering how much privacy you need, and what kind of information you are comfortable sharing. If that means deleting your account, do it. Sending that 10 second picture isn’t worth sacrificing your privacy.





Citation Note: all italicized quotes are derived directly from Snapchat’s Privacy Policy.

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1 Comment

  1. Jennica
    January 23, 2017 at 6:21 pm

    It’s scary to think about this. I hate it when apps, social networks, wifi networks, and the like give a long, copious list of privacy settings and user terms and agreements. They’re obviously written that way so the person doesn’t read it and/or doesn’t finish reading all the pages. I would prefer if these social networks give a succinct summary of all the terms and privacy policies, one that isn’t strenuous to read. Just curious, Jess, what is your take on other social networks like Facebook or Instagram? Are there some changes you want to make with those networks, like making sure Facebook doesn’t access your photos on your phone or location?