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Evan Schuman: Snapchat's reputation is vanishing (unlike its images)

Evan Schuman | May 12, 2014
FTC takes it to task for misleading privacy policy, other transgressions. You should take another look at your company's privacy policy.

The good news is that the FTC is starting to force companies to do what they say they do. Look at your own company's privacy policy. How much of it is fully and honestly true? Does it acknowledge all of the ways that the system's safeguards can be outsmarted?

Workarounds are a fact of life in IT. In my last job, a portion of our content required a paid subscription. We asked subscribers to please not make copies of the content and share them publicly. Did a lot of people do it anyway? Absolutely. But we never told subscribers that it was impossible to do. We simply hoped that they would play by the rules.

Years ago, when Amazon was starting its Look Inside the Book feature, it provided no direct way to save the images, in order to make publishers more comfortable. But it could still be done with a simple screen capture. When Amazon announced that it had blocked the hole, we found that the hole existed using less popular browsers. I had the chance at the time to ask Jeff Bezos about the hole, and he was very realistic about it, saying that there's only so much one can do to protect content that is viewable by others. As a practical matter, no one would likely take the many hours required to recreate a book.

But Amazon never said that it couldn't be done.

Therein lies the Snapchat headache. It didn't fib about a minor feature. It directly lied about its most significant features, the heart of its app. Maybe its images don't really disappear, but Snapchat's reputation is starting to.


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