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The Snapchat deception

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Back in late 2013, the Wall Street Journal reported that messaging service Snapchat had turned down a 3 billion dollar offer from social media behemoth Facebook.

The founder and CEO, Evan Spiegel, cited the prospects of long-term gains that outstripped even Facebook’s gargantuan offer as the reason – as well as his belief that Snapchat’s messaging paradigm is unique and potentially game-changing.

Many people were starting to see Snapchat as the anti-Facebook, in a sense, due to the former’s very strong stance on privacy and the promise that the app destroyed messages such that they became irrecoverable and thus safe from snooping eyes (you’re up, NSA).

Well, the privacy curtain promised by Snapchat has just been unceremoniously drawn by the US Federal Trade Commission, which has charged Snapchat with willfully deceiving potential customers – it turns out, surprise, surprise, that Snapchat was surreptitiously collecting your data (specifically, user contracts) as well as sent message. And no, this isn’t merely an accusation – Snapchat is settling with the FTC by paying fines without admitting guilt – the corporate way of saying “you got us. Dammit.”

This settlement has some restrictions on Snapchat’s practices going forward: they must submit to a two-decade-long privacy program managed by an external overseer – which actually puts them in the same pot as all those other companies that have all-but admitted to violating privacy laws in the past: Google, Myspace and – you guessed it – Facebook!

The real question is, since Snapchat’s messages decidedly do not disappear forever, as they so ceremoniously advertised with the app’s release, is whether or not some of those deep-pocket-investors will pull out. With the security-breach in January of this year 2014, it seems that Snapchat is being beset with the fruits of its own deception. They failed to take security expert’s recommendations regarding the vulnerability of their systems seriously, and 4.6 million users paid for this negligence by having hackers collect their phone numbers. One can’t help but wonder if that $3 billion offer is still on the table.

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