Snapchat is a mobile phone application intended to allow users to send photos to their friends and limit the amount of time for which the photos can be viewed. Once the allotted viewing time has elapsed, Snapchat is meant to delete the photos entirely from the recipient’s device as well as from Snapchat’s servers so that it cannot be accessed again. Snapchat has gained quite a following since its launch in 2011; it currently reports that its users send 150 million “snaps” per day. It seems, however, that the deletion of users’ images on Snapchat might not be so permanent.
The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), a self-described public interest research center focusing on privacy issues and consumer advocacy, filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on May 16, alleging that Snapchat’s representations that its users’ photos “disappear forever” once viewed by a recipient are deceptive and likely to mislead consumers. The complaint alleges violations of Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act and asks the Commission to investigate.
The complaint alleges that Snapchat’s representations to users “that photos sent using its app would be deleted after a user-designated amount of time” are “likely to mislead the reasonable consumer” and that those representations are material. In addition to asking the FTC to investigate Snapchat’s claims that users’ images are permanently deleted, the complaint asks that the FTC require Snapchat to make improvements to its security practices to successfully delete users’ photos and to cure any deceptive statements about its services.