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Snapchat must either grow up or risk disappearing

Matt Kapko | June 12, 2014
Snapchat had a rough May, and that's even before taking into account the massive competitive threats it faces from Apple and Facebook. The company has a lot of growing up to do. And it better do it fast.

Snapchat was also called out for declining to publicly oppose mass surveillance and for not keeping pace with industry competitors when it comes to "transparency around data requests, giving users notice when their data is sought by the government, or requiring a warrant for user content."

How Snapchat Should Respond to Privacy Issues

Without an overwhelming faith in Snapchat's adherence to privacy, the entire value proposition for its app will reverse dramatically. The company took at least one right step in that direction when it updated its privacy policy just days before reaching agreement with the FTC.

In it Snapchat reiterates that all messages are deleted from its servers once all recipients have viewed them, but it doesn't hide from the fact that there are still ways to access and even save those messages after they are deleted:

"We take reasonable measures to help protect information about you from loss, theft, misuse and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration and destruction," the company adds. But here's the real kicker, one sentence that does Snapchat no favors other than to protect itself from legal and future regulatory snafus: "You should not use Snapchat to send messages if you want to be certain that the recipient cannot keep a copy."

Theses updated privacy policies may appease bureaucrats, but Snapchat has a long way to go before it can say the same for users and consumer advocates who are already losing faith in the company. This, above all else, could be Snapchat's ultimate demise. But are things really as bad as they appear?

Not according to a recent report from Sandvine. The networking equipment provider concludes: "Snapchat has become the leading third-party messaging service by volume, generating more traffic each day than competing services such as WhatsApp" in North America. That's a lot of snaps.

To maintain that lead, Snapchat needs to take a more public and clear stance on the privacy of those snaps. Every resource at its disposal should be put toward the development of Snapchat's core feature. Are these disappearing messages just an act?

If there are any specific technological hurdles to rectifying this issue, Snapchat needs to come out and say it. Explain to users how hard it is to ensure that snaps only live for 10 seconds. Otherwise, users will continue to question Snapchat's true commitment and intent. Why can't Snapchat stand behind its promises?

Leaked Emails Fuel the Fire

Just as things seemed to cool down for Snapchat, a series of damning and misogynistic emails penned by co-founder and CEO Evan Spiegel five years ago were obtained and published by Valleywag.

Much of what he wrote during his fraternity days at Stanford University doesn't bear worth repeating; just suffice to say that Spiegel says he is "mortified and embarrassed" over the "idiotic emails." He concluded his brief, prepared statement with an apology, adding that he was a "jerk" to have written the emails and that "they in no way reflect who I am today or my views towards women."


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