So-called Snapchat hack & the question of where to place trust

By Anne Collier

It’s interesting to see headlines like “Snapchat photo leak shows users’ mistake was trusting each other.” That was the takeaway from a commentator in the Los Angeles Times. But the real takeaway should be: Don’t trust unauthorized third-party apps that claim to enhance or add convenience to your social media apps. At least, if you really want to use one, look into how it works and what it does with your data before using it.

That’s what happened with Snapchat over a period of years: “A third-party Snapchat client app has been collecting every single photo and video file sent through it for years, giving hackers access to a 13GB library of Snapchats that users thought had been deleted,” reported.

I suspect 99% of Snapchat users know that screenshots can be taken of their snaps. They know disappearing photos and videos don’t necessarily disappear and, when people do grab screenshots of snaps, rarely is there any problem. This news story is not about friends; it’s about abuse of both the Snapchat service and its users. That exploit took the form of a database “as big as 200,000” screenshots that the New York Times reported “appear to have come from the accounts of people using Snapsaved, a smartphone tool that its creators said would allow users to store photos from their Snapchat accounts that normally disappear after 10 seconds.”

Snapchat says it “vigilantly monitors the App Store and Google Play for illegal third-party apps and have succeeded in getting many of these removed.” So – as we keep noting here – safety and privacy are a shared proposition. Users need to be as wary of third-party apps as their social media service providers are. It wouldn’t hurt to make a dinner table or classroom discussion out of the Snapchat story – this is an important digital and media literacy lesson. But the takeaway from news of security breaches and criminal acts shouldn’t be that it’s a mistake to trust one’s friends!