Snapchat is a popular mobile messaging app that allows its users to take pictures and share videos with their friends within a ten seconds timeframe, after which these images self-destruct (Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False 2014). The Federal Trade Commission’s complaints hold that Snapchat violated six media laws when they misrepresented the product information to its consumers, by not divulging information on how the app really worked.
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From the dramatic developments in technology news, the FTC insists that if Snapchat used privacy and security as key points in its sales pitch to consumers, the company had to honor these promises. According to Dwoskin and Kendall (2014), companies risk legal action from the FTC for misrepresenting their products to consumers. The violations of Snapchat show that social media companies should be rigorously tested before being released to the public to make sure that they keep in line with media law.
Snapchat has recently been critisized by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which claims that the company was deceptive to its users on the self-destruction of messages passing through this service. On privacy, the company claimed that snaps disappear forever once the designated time that the image takes to reach the sender expires (Dwoskin & Kendall, 2014). The complaint details several approaches that allow users to save their snaps indefinitely. For instance, consumers can use available third party apps to save these messages indefinitely after viewing them. This happens because the deletion feature functions only in the official app, while third-party apps are available in over a million downloads. Despite warnings from security researchers about the likelihood, Snapchat went ahead to misrepresent information about the sender being able to control the period that a recipient views sent snaps (Dwoskin & Kendall, 2014). These acts violated media law due to the inherent confidentiality and privacy breaches.
The FTC points out that the firm also lied to its consumers about the personal data that they collected. Consumer complaints received against the company include the misrepresentation of the company’s data collection practices (Solove & Schwartz, 2014). This legal issue directly relates to informational security. Informational security legal issues relate to the consequences of leaking confidential information due to social media use, or breach of an individual’s security. The company claims that it is incapable of accessing information such as the physical location of a user. Despite this, users of its Android app were able to access this data, raising doubts about the integrity of the company’s promises to its consumers. The company also deceived its users regarding the right measures it took to prevent the misuse of data as well as unauthorized disclosure (Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False 2014). Lying to consumers about the personal data that the company collected violates the privacy and confidentiality privileges of consumers.
Snapchat offers an intimate and interactive environment for its users that increases the legal risks associated with access to personal information (Solove & Schwartz, 2014). The FTC’s complaint cites allegation of several consumers that “they had sent snaps to someone under the false impression that they were communicating with a friend” (Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False, 2014, para. 11). Further, Snapchat did not verify the addresses of people upon registration, letting people exchange snaps to falsely registered users (Peterson, 2014). Moreover, the company violated media law, by failing to protect its various features. This includes the friends feature that allowed hackers to pile up over 4.6 million usernames and phone numbers after a security violation. The FTC insists that exposing this information could cause negative repercussions to account owners. All these lapses raise various privacy concerns, which increase legal risks.
The privacy and confidentiality violations can have negative repercussions for its acceptance in the wider community (Boyd, 2014). The company leaked minors’ information that violated their privacy under the child protection act. Since then, the company also agreed to initiate affirmative steps to protect minors with Snapchat accounts, because being aware that some of the users are minors below 13 years old goes against the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In this case, the FTC could not lay any fines, unless regulations such as COPPA gave authority to do so. If the social media were to incur fines for this mishap, the company would lose millions in fines, for an issue that they would have sorted initially.
Maryland Attorney General accepted that Snapchat should obtain affirmative consent from its consumers before collecting and saving information retrieved from their address books (Peterson, 2014). The company has already made a significant first step by updating its text and videoconferencing capabilities of the application. Presently, the company allows recipients to save exchanges without notifying senders, significantly deviating from the self-destructing messages that led to the initial growth of the app. The positivity that Snapchat displays were a real success in media law for recognizing and correcting breach promises to consumers, in which the company freely engaged.
The in-depth analysis of medial law violations by Snapchat affirms that social media companies should be rigorously tested before being released to the public to make sure that they keep in line with media law. Snapchat admits that it has since learned from its mistakes and will remain focused on building their communication with the Snapchat community and following media laws to the latter. Snapchat ignored consumer security in their app, leading to a security breach that the company was able to prevent. Snapchat also violated confidentiality policy and consumer privacy in its actions.
The settlement made sure that the companies engaged in truthful actions that did not violate the privacy of its users. The settlement deterred Snapchat from further misrepresentations about the security of consumer’s information. The commission raised complaints, given the grounds it had to suppose that Snapchat was violating media law. The company has since resolved any arising issues stated in the complaint, insisting that they are devoted to ensuring that they promote user privacy and that Snapchatters can now control their communication patterns.
Boyd, D. (2014). It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press.
Dwoskin, E., & Kendall, B. (2014). Snapchat Settles FTC Charges. The Wall Street Journal. Web.
Peterson, A. (2014). Snapchat agrees to settle FTC charges that it deceived users. The Washington Post. Web.
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Solove, D., & Schwartz, P. (2014). Information Privacy Law. New York: Wolters Kluwer Law & Business.