Snapchat Users Beware: Not as Private as You Think

(COVINGTON, La.)- You and your friends are at a party. You capture a picture that is completely inappropriate but it’s too good not to post. Despite a nagging thought that maybe you should hit delete, you post it anyway. Recent news about Snapchat’s failures to keep your messages private should give you a reason to listen to your intuition next time you find yourself in this position.

People often forget that when they post on social media they are shouting into an echo chamber that will never stop repeating what they say, ever. Over the past decade, use of social media has skyrocketed, becoming a huge part of everyday life that we rarely think twice about. In reality, every time we post something on social media it is archived for anyone in the future to see. Additionally, there are many different people who can see these posts: future employers, your mother; basically anyone with the will and an internet connection. This is vital to Snapchat because it is one of the leading social media outlets with 187 million daily active users. Of people aged 12 to 17, 83.4 percent use Snapchat on a daily basis, cementing it as a staple of life for young people.

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Snapchat icon on an iPhone (Credit- Charles Sturt University)

 

Over recent years, Snapchat user privacy has been compromised by third-party apps and websites accessing and leaking their information and posts.  For example, in 2014, SnapchatDB managed to breach Snapchat’s security services and access the accounts of 4.6 million users. At the time, Snapchat had 71 million users. There was also a smaller and more recent incident in 2017 when a mobile website called kIkviral.org managed to copy the Snapchat login screen. The website’s purpose was to act as a veil and furtively seize the usernames and passwords of those unfortunate enough to fall for the facade. By this time, the now extremely popular social media outlet had 187 million users. Unfortunately, l55,000 of those users were victims of the attack.

Snapchat has also had issues with people screenshotting and recording videos and images sent. When a user sends something they have the choice on how long they want the recipient to see it. The recipient also had a choice to take a screenshot of the picture. There have been many issues with screenshotting, but Snapchat has updated their software to show when someone has taken a screenshot or even replayed it.

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Snapmaps in action, displaying areas of activity and locations of users (Credit- Onward State)

Many Snapchat users are familiar with Snapchat’s snapmap, which allows users to see where their friends are. When the feature first surfaced in 2017, many people feared that their privacy would be violated. The problem was that the app was sharing too much information about their users because every time users opened the app it would mark the location and show what users are doing.

The map also shows hot spots of people and events. This concerned governments because of past terrorist attacks and people may use this feature to cause harm. Parents and government authorities were worried because there were ways people could find exact addresses. Now, there is a choice to “ghost yourself” but few users are aware of this feature. 

When using Snapchat, be cautious. What you send is permanent, and a lot less safe than you would believe. People can record what you send without you knowing and that information might exist forever. Additionally, your snapmap might lead you to harm if someone decides to track you for malicious purposes. Remember, think about what you snap.

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One Comment on “Snapchat Users Beware: Not as Private as You Think”

  1. Steve
    September 21, 2018 at 3:05 pm #

    Well written article and very informative. Since Sal & Judy’s is “our” favorite restaurant, I will be sure to look for and read all of your future articles.

    Like

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