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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Shorter privacy policies win-win for all

    Snapchat told the public two weeks ago that it can and will share users’ snaps and stories with police under certain circumstances, which makes the app just one of many misleading social services. As users, we buy into the idea of privacy online or with social apps, but at the end of the day, we have no control over our data, even with apps like Snapchat where we think we have the most control.

    The popular Snapchat app is a temporary photo messaging service that many users feel comfortable using to send photos that they believe will be deleted after a few seconds.

    However, if the recipient has not opened the snaps yet and officers have a warrant, Snapchat will release the pictures, according to its privacy policy.

    “That’s really creepy if you think about it,” said Paige Farrell, a political science junior and Snapchat user.

    Snapchat’s privacy policy reads about 1,800 words, which is actually one of the shorter policies among social media apps. Instagram’s policy reads more than 2,000 words and Facebook’s policy is more than 5,000 words.

    There are a large number of social media app users and it is safe to say not everyone takes the time to read through these policy pages. These companies should provide their users with a condensed version of their privacy policies so users know exactly what they are getting themselves into.

    According to TechCrunch, a news website that covers information on technology companies, 350 million Snapchat photos are being shared every day. Snapchat has turned unopened messages over to law enforcement about a dozen times since May, according to Micah Schaffer, Snapchat’s officer of trust and safety.

    “I guess that it really is misleading and people think that they’re going to disappear and not be seen,” Farrell said. “I think that’s something people don’t realize.”

    However, two weeks ago, Schaffer wrote a blog post to assure users that these snaps won’t be handed over without a court order.

    While Schaffer said Snapchat’s privacy policy tells users it can share information with legal requests, it rarely ever happens. But, when it does, users whose phones have been seized by police can no longer hide whatever they hoped Snapchat could get rid of forever.

    For example, a July ABC News headline read, “Even with Snapchat, Weiner Might Not Have Been Able to Hide His Sexts.”

    Schaffer explained that unopened snaps are stored until viewed or for 30 days, but with Snapchat’s new story-mode function, which are a set of daily snaps that can be viewed repeatedly for a whole day, snaps can stay on Snapchat’s server for 24 hours, giving the police more time to subpoena the pictures.

    It would be in everyone’s best interests if social media companies like Snapchat provided users with condensed privacy policies so no one feels fooled and the companies don’t lose uers. Privacy policies need to be condensed so users can actually read them and know the truth behind whatever service they are about to use, because the truth is, very few people have the patience to actually read 5,000 word privacy policies and later feel betrayed by these services, which could cause a decline in the number of users.

    Until something is done about providing clear user guidelines so these apps are no longer misleading, users need to beware: don’t post anything you wouldn’t want exposed during a trial.

    Ashley T. Powell is a journalism senior. Follow her @ashleytaylar.

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