The ephemeral messaging startup added some new features to its app on Oct. 28 and quietly updated its terms for using the service. After various news outlets dove into the text of the new policies and reported on some of the broadly worded changes, people became concerned that Snapchat was reserving the right to store and use people's private selfies and nude photos, even after that content disappeared from users' devices.
But Snapchat disagrees with the public's interpretation of its new terms and is now trying to calm people down by clarifying some of the changes.
Part of the confusion here stems from the fact that virtually no one reads the terms or privacy policies for the apps they download. It's far easier to tap a button saying you agree than to slog through those dense forms.
Another reason people got angry is that Snapchat, which claims to have over 100 million daily active users, didn't write a blog post, send an email or tweet about the changes to its user agreement. The company spoke up only after a backlash erupted on social media.
On Sunday, Snapchat published a post on Tumblr about "protecting your privacy" in which it tried to debunk rumors that it was storing private snaps. It also highlighted the post in a tweet that night.
"We never want to create any misunderstanding about our commitment to user privacy and we're going to keep working to communicate that to our community," a Snapchat spokesperson told The Huffington Post on Monday.
Below, we read between the lines of Snapchat's blog post to explain what's really going on with the updated Terms of Service.
Translation: After the FTC cracked down, we worked on addressing the complaint, cutting off access to the third-party apps that were saving updates. People can still take screenshots of your snaps or use other apps to record videos, though, so we can't claim that your snaps are more private now without getting in trouble with the feds.
Snapchat: "But the important point is that Snapchat is not—and never has been—stockpiling your private Snaps or Chats. And because we continue to delete them from our servers as soon as they’re read, we could not—and do not—share them with advertisers or business partners.”
Translation: We're relying on young people trusting us not to leak their private messages, so people freaking out over us keeping your snaps is a huge business risk. Users might still find ways to save your private messages, but we aren’t. Unless our business model changes, we won’t share them with advertisers.
Translation: We did a poor job of explaining this when we rolled it out. Now that you're all freaking out, let's try again.
Translation: We haven't actually changed that much. We just made how we're using your snaps clearer, but once we did that, you all got really upset.
Snapchat: "We added language to the Terms of Service regarding in-app purchases. We needed to do that now that we’re selling Replays—and have some other cool products and services we’re looking forward to bringing to you soon."
Translation: The feature where you can pay us to replay a message is going well, and we're planning on expanding ways to give us money, so we needed to make the rules clearer, with clauses like "it’s your sole responsibility to manage your in-app purchases." That means if you run up a huge credit card bill watching funny pictures or intimate videos from your ex again and again, it's not our fault. If you're under 18, you should really talk with your parents about buying things in apps, because we're going to be trying to sell you more, soon.
Snapchat: "To make it a little easier for friends to find you on Snapchat, we’ve clarified what info—like your name—will be visible to other Snapchatters and how you can modify that info."
This post has been updated with a comment from a Snapchat spokesperson.