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Privacy organization files FTC complaint against Snapchat

snapchats photo
Image used with permission by copyright holder

It’s recently surfaced that Snapchat photos and videos are stored somewhere on your phone and can be retrieved with a few tools. Snapchat hasn’t responded with a fix yet, and this has landed the app in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission. 

Way back when Snapchat was first launched, Buzzfeed discovered a loophole that allowed cached Snapchat videos to be rewatched on an iOS browser like iFunBox. In response, Snapchat founder Evan Spiegal told Buzzfeed, “The people who most enjoy using Snapchat are those who embrace the spirit and intent of the service. There will always be ways to reverse engineer technology products — but that spoils the fun!”

Now, more targeting digging is going on and Snapchat recovery is proving more thorough and possible than we originally thought. 

In fact, Decipher Forensics’ Snapchat media retrieval process comes with a price. Yes, government agencies and police departments, these data forensics researchers are eyeing you. And best of all, there’s no concerns about having to get obtain a warrant to show Snapchat.

The Electronic Privacy Information Center has been keeping a watchful eye on Snapchat, and the most recent evidence of Snapchat retrieval has proven reason enough for the privacy organization to strike. Photographer Nick Keck told us used iFile, an iOS browser, to dig up saved Snapchat videos. Photos can’t be retrieved as we reported earlier since photos aren’t cached.

EPIC says Snapchat led users to believe their images and videos would “disappear forever.” But in the complaint that EPIC filed with the FTC, the group says the company used “unfair and deceptive acts and practices.”

Since launch, Snapchat has slowly but progressively admitted that the app isn’t actually as privacy-friendly and secure as it’s made its out to be. In fact Snapchat recently published a point-by-point blog post going over how it stores and deletes Snapchat data, with the tender warning at the very bottom that says, “If you’ve ever tried to recover lost data after accidentally deleting a drive or maybe watched an episode of CSI, you might know that with the right forensic tools, it’s sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted. So … you know … keep that in mind before putting any state secrets in your selfies :)”

We reached out to Snapchat in the wake of the FTC complaint having been filed, but its spokesperson declined to comment on the pending complaint. But judging from what the rep was willing to divulge, it sounds like the team is annoyed that users are playing along with the app’s intended use. Suffice it to say users that backward engineer the app and publish their findings – further smearing Snapchat’s image – probably aren’t on Snapchat’s good side.

“There seems to be some confusion from those who do not use Snapchat about the intent and spirit of the Snapchat community. Snapchat is a fun and creative way to share a moment in the moment. There have always been ways to save snaps, not the least of which would be to take a screenshot or a picture with another device,” Snapchat tells us.

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Francis Bea
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