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Take a Picture: Snapchat Settles With FTC Over "Dissapearing" Claims

timothy posted about 7 months ago | from the if-it-reaches-an-output-device-it-can-reach-an-input-device dept.

Communications 51

The New York Times is one of many outlets reporting that Snapchat has agreed to settle with the FTC about the gap between promises made about the company's "disappearing" communications system and reality. "The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said Snapchat had agreed to settle charges that the company was deceiving users about the ephemeral nature of the photos and video messages sent through its service. The messages were significantly less private than the company had said, the commission said. In marketing the service, Snapchat has said that its messages “disappear forever.” But in its complaint, the commission said the messages, often called snaps, can be saved in several ways. The commission said that users can save a message by using a third-party app, for example, or employ simple workarounds that allow users to take a screenshot of messages without detection." Besides the monetary side of the settlement (details of which are promised soon on the FTC's site), the company has agreed to operate for the next 20 years with special supervision of a new privacy program; it seems a little optimistic as a timeframe for any social-media related business. Here are the FTC's charges (PDF).

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20 years? (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | about 7 months ago | (#46954081)

OMG. that's like a really long time.

Re:20 years? (1)

Ksevio (865461) | about 7 months ago | (#46956059)

To me that sounded like when courts give people 3 life sentences + 100 years. I don't see snapchat lasting that long.

"Dissapearing" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954089)

DIS
SAP
EAR
ING

Fucking capitalism, always promoting the retards.

Disappearing $3 Billion (4, Funny)

Scowler (667000) | about 7 months ago | (#46954095)

Maybe pictures don't disappear cleanly, but that $3 Billion offer for the company sure disappeared fast.

Re:Disappearing $3 Billion (3, Interesting)

tokencode (1952944) | about 7 months ago | (#46954213)

Yea, not accepting that offer may be one of the dumbest business decisions I've ever seen. There is essentially 0 intellectually property that is not easily reproducible. Now the only stuff you get by acquiring SnapChat is 20 years of oversight and scrutiny and a bad reputation.

Re:Disappearing $3 Billion (4, Insightful)

Aeonym (1115135) | about 7 months ago | (#46954291)

There are plenty of people who believe that being the first person to implement a moderately clever idea makes them indispensable to the modern information economy.

Of course, a disproportionate number of those people are in their twenties and have no real experience or conception of how the wider world works...kind of like Snapchat's founders.

Re:Disappearing $3 Billion (2)

amalek (615708) | about 7 months ago | (#46954431)

It probably won't be around in 5 years or so.

The userbase is predominantly teenagers who'll be very different people in a couple years, and the slightly older crowd who'll have moved onwards as well.

I see two issues:
1) Functionally, it's simple to replicate, and
2) The ephemeral nature of the pictures were what gave it traction in the first place. This is now under serious (20 years of) scrutiny.

There will likely remain a market for the functionality it offers, but the teen demographic will probably not be revitalised given its current situation.

Let's not mock the founder(s) for turning down the $3 billion though, this is a good lesson learned and hey, they're still young.

Re:Disappearing $3 Billion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954891)

Let's not mock the founder(s) for turning down the $3 billion though, this is a good lesson learned and hey, they're still young.

They should be mocked. After a sale for $3 billion, they would never have needed to learn another lesson in their, or their children's lives. I seriously doubt they will ever obtain that amount of wealth in the future.

Platforms like snapchat are not technically difficult to create. It is all about having a good idea at the right time. They had that and they got stupid and passed up their chance to profit on it.

Re:Disappearing $3 Billion (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954927)

Hmmm. Maybe they turned it down because they knew this was a potential outcome and didn't want to get sued.

Re:Disappearing $3 Billion (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 months ago | (#46959809)

Yea, not accepting that offer may be one of the dumbest business decisions I've ever seen. There is essentially 0 intellectually property that is not easily reproducible. Now the only stuff you get by acquiring SnapChat is 20 years of oversight and scrutiny and a bad reputation.

On the other hand, one has to wonder where all this FTC attention came from.

Snapchat was not advertising anything falsely. The original pictures DO disappear forever. The fact that other people can copy them while they exist is really pretty irrelevant... and should be obvious to anyone using the service.

So who does FTC think Snapchat was deceiving? Certainly nobody I know. Instead, why don't they go after companies like DropBox which deliberately lied to their customers about security? A complaint was filed with FTC against DropBox clear back in 2011.

Could it be somehow "politically" motivated (i.e., some kind of inside lobbying effort)? Otherwise I don't see any reason for this at all.

Re: Disappearing $3 Billion (1)

Scowler (667000) | about 7 months ago | (#46962779)

Snapchat is basically a sexting app. The word-of-mouth marketing message is "go ahead and send a nude selfie to some random internet person, without worry!" With all the existing worries over teen sexting, bullying, revenge porn, etc. such a service was probably bound to generate government scrutiny fast. Maybe the FTC did just use a pretext.

Re: Disappearing $3 Billion (1)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about 7 months ago | (#46964021)

With all the existing worries over teen sexting, bullying, revenge porn, etc. such a service was probably bound to generate government scrutiny fast.

But "bound to generate government scrutiny" is not the same as "justified lawsuit". That was my point.

There are things the government is not allowed to do for political reasons. Period. Lawsuits are one of those things.

Re:Disappearing $3 Billion (1)

technosaurus (1704630) | about 7 months ago | (#46960105)

Its not hard to make them disappear on the server side:
1. mkfifo a named pipe somenthing like <image>sender-receiver-timestamp
2. read the incoming file from the tcp socket and write to the named pipe
2a. verify file is less than the size of the pipe buffer via return value of write
2b. if error or size exceed PIPE_BUF return error message
3. send messages to sender and receiver with unique uri
4. when either the sender or receiver goes to the uri:
a the pipe is read back just like a regular file to the tcp socket and the data disappears
b since it was never really on the filesystem (it only looks like it) there will be no trace
... at least after a reboot to clear traces in RAM, but you could memcpy zeroes for that
5. run a cleaner daemon that deletes all pipes older than X hours in case they aren't viewed in a timely fashion

6. make the end users agree to an EULA saying that they won't save the data in any way
-- no matter what you do the receiver could take a screenshot or take a picture of the screen with a camera

20 years? (2)

kruach aum (1934852) | about 7 months ago | (#46954133)

They will be lucky if they're not bankrupt by next year. To quote the venerable Gilderoy Lockhart: "Fame is a fickle friend, Harry."

Re:20 years? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46956097)

Maybe trolling comment, but doesn't anyway suspect something going on here? Facef**k buys them out as their being investigated by the FTC. And the Facef**k monopoly manages to buy off [buy off, maybe a little strong, but the realty is they own or can buy off Federal regulators] the FTC to get Snapchat off the hook.

It would have been interesting if Snapchat was on its own facing these charges.

Re:20 years? (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | about 7 months ago | (#46970705)

> Maybe trolling comment, but doesn't anyway suspect something
> going on here? Facef**k buys them out as their being investigated
> by the FTC. And the Facef**k monopoly manages to buy off [buy off,
> maybe a little strong, but the realty is they own or can buy off Federal
> regulators] the FTC to get Snapchat off the hook.

No need to do that. Fecesbook buys Snapchat, and shuts them down. With the shutdown of Snapchat, the 20-year agreement dies along with the corporate shell. Then Fecesbook offers "a new service" which "just happens" to be very similar to Snapchat, but has a much more wide open EULA that protects them aginst FTC investigation.

Snapchat is a DRM technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954173)

Snapchat promises its users single-view, delete-after-viewing for sent pictures.. And is now liable because of the analog hole, screenshot ability, and the existence of 3rd party apps that can preserve the images longer.

IIRC, snapchat just renamed the sent pictures, so yeah, that's not going to work.

But aren't the DRM vendors promising the same thing to big media? And again, IIRC, the DMCA anti-circumvention rules don't care how poor your DRM algorithm is.

FTC is overreaching (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954221)

This is like the government prosecuting your secure phone line business for being insecure, because someone can hold a tape recorder up to the receiver.

I'd think the FTC could go after far worse companies, but maybe there's an ulterior motive here. If everyone used snapchat, it might be a headache for the FBI.

Re: FTC is overreaching (4, Insightful)

Scowler (667000) | about 7 months ago | (#46954273)

The entire point of Snapchat was proven to be an advertising lie. That's different than, say, bullet 12 on three pages of advertising claims turns out to be an exaggeration. How could the FTC ignore this one?

Re: FTC is overreaching (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 7 months ago | (#46954417)

The entire point of Snapchat was proven to be an advertising lie. That's different than, say, bullet 12 on three pages of advertising claims turns out to be an exaggeration. How could the FTC ignore this one?

Well for one it's completely outside their jurisdiction. Snapchat is a free service - there is no trade going on between Snapchat and its users.

Re: FTC is overreaching (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954505)

There most certainly is a trade. Your info and eye balls in exchange for their service.

Speaking of Jurisdiction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954711)

Snapchat can't lie, but politicians can?

http://time.com/73056/on-your-mark-get-set-lie-supreme-court-weighs-truth-in-politics/

Re: FTC is overreaching (3, Insightful)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 7 months ago | (#46954533)

Its funny when the government attacks you for providing secure communications. Then they attack you for having insecure communications.

I suppose snapchat should have said, "the pictures disappear from OUR servers"... but in the end you have a government agency assigning itself powers and jurisdictions, and deciding punishments all by itself.

Re: FTC is overreaching (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 7 months ago | (#46958773)

but in the end you have a government agency assigning itself powers and jurisdictions, and deciding punishments all by itself.

No, this is actually something which Congress gave the FTC power and jurisdiction over in the various laws it wrote that apply to the FTC. Whether or not the FTC should have pursued this is still a valid argument, but this is clearly within their purview. They alleged that Snapchat was guilty of false advertising. The FTC was, in part, set up to investigate and prosecute claims of false advertising.

Re: FTC is overreaching (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954567)

The entire point of Snapchat was proven to be an advertising lie. That's different than, say, bullet 12 on three pages of advertising claims turns out to be an exaggeration. How could the FTC ignore this one?

It's only a lie if the person you're chatting with is deceptive.

Basically, the FTC is going after Snapchat because Snapchat didn't put in enough weasel language suggesting people are untrustworthy assholes. At a basic level, I think the FTC is going after this a bit harder than they need to, meanwhile ignoring false security claims from other companies cooperating with the NSA.

Re: FTC is overreaching (1)

Scowler (667000) | about 7 months ago | (#46955109)

If indeed the government is being unusually harsh, then maybe it's the sexting thing? Maybe some right wing group pressured the FTC because of worries of under-18 girls sending nudie pics?

Re: FTC is overreaching (1)

omnichad (1198475) | about 7 months ago | (#46958501)

Do you think that's not what Snapchat is used for? The problem is that those girls aren't sending them to under-18 guys. Even here, we think that should probably mostly stay illegal.

Re:FTC is overreaching (2)

Firethorn (177587) | about 7 months ago | (#46954275)

This is like the government prosecuting your secure phone line business for being insecure, because someone can hold a tape recorder up to the receiver.

I think it depends on just what you promised your customers. If you said 'Your conversations over our phone calls CANNOT be intercepted or recorded by any means' you're promising a lot.

If your promise is more along the lines of 'Your conversations cannot be listened to or recorded by intercepting the telephone line or circuit as long as the device is intact and properly used', IE you don't promise that the phones will hold up to physical manipulation, bugs in the room, etc... You're probably safe as long as your phones actually work for that purpose.

Re:FTC is overreaching (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46960851)

A company bases it's entire existence on a lie and it's government overreach to slap them on the wrist. We've gone way past free market capitalism into loonyville here.

DMCA (2)

g0tai (625459) | about 7 months ago | (#46954281)

So, does this mean that the 'third party apps' that are used to save images are circumventing the (wonderful) DMCA?

Re:DMCA (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 7 months ago | (#46954325)

Apps don't violate DMCA, people do.

Re:DMCA (2)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 7 months ago | (#46954563)

Tell that to 321 Studios (DVDxcopy) or DVDFab.

Fuck Autorefresh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954307)

http://slashdot.org/?nobeta=1&source=autorefresh

Make it stop... please!!!

Captcha: dejected

Re:Fuck Autorefresh (1)

Arker (91948) | about 7 months ago | (#46954427)

A sign of a broken browser.

If your browser is based on mozilla code then this may be all you need to fix it:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/refreshblocker/

Ummm... if you find... (2)

Scowler (667000) | about 7 months ago | (#46954329)

... nudie pictures of either myself or my wife, please delete. Pretty Please. Cherries on top.

Re:Ummm... if you find... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46957147)

If you find nudie pictures of either myself or my wife, please delete. Pretty Please. Cherries on top.

If there are cherries on top then no way I'm deleting it.

Disapear spell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954341)

Disapear is good example of new spell.

Re:Disapear spell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954365)

My misread. Worse Dissapearing is new spell of Disappearing. Whatever happened to spelling-checkers? Particular bad in a title.

The Free Market solves everything (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954419)

But I thought the Free market was supposed to take care of things like this.

Smells Fishy (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954435)

We all know that things like screen grabs can "save" a snap chat on the other side. There is always an analog hole. To get a fine over it is stupid.
Snap chat's promise is that THEY don't save it - either on their server or in their app. The summary doesn't seem to indicate they did otherwise either.

This smells of the people at snap chat being invited to Fort Meade (NSA HQ), and told to install a back door (NSA's "collect it all" policy). When they refused (they wouldn't have started the company if they could agree to it), they now face a multi-gajillion dollar fine, and "supervision" guaranteed to drive them out of business.

I'm pretty sure we're watching the results a shake down. Very likely they are also under a gag order preventing them from speaking out about it.
If only we had a free press to tell us what really happened...
Land of the free, indeed.

Re:Smells Fishy (1)

ganjadude (952775) | about 7 months ago | (#46958477)

i could also use a camera and take a photo of the photo, Im not so sure that snapchat should be getting in trouble for this

Re:Smells Fishy (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 7 months ago | (#46959893)

We all know that things like screen grabs can "save" a snap chat on the other side. There is always an analog hole. To get a fine over it is stupid.
Snap chat's promise is that THEY don't save it - either on their server or in their app. The summary doesn't seem to indicate they did otherwise either.

Except when they did.

First, the app is SUPPOSED to let the other side know if you took a screenshot. On Android, if you do it, it works very reliably. On iOS, not so much (because Apple didn't provide an API for that). Instead, what people did was put their finger on the screen then did the Power+Home screenshot trick. The app detected this and used it as a "screenshot taken" notification back to the sender. (The goal is social - someone who did this a lot would probably get less photos from friends who really wanted them to disappear). Of course, iOS 7 broke all this so there's no way for the app to know if a screenshot was taken.

Second, the app itself was completely vulnerable. The photos were easily accessed (unencrypted, even). And even when viewed and supposedly "gone", they were still retrievable from the phone very easily (i.e., they weren't actually deleted).

Then there's the whole "well, we'll let you review any image from the day again, but just once" which implies that you can see any image anyone sent you again. Of course, the sender gets notification when this happens, too.

So it's a case of well, photos that supposedly disappear, but didn't. And the fact you can re-view any image sent again (but just one of them, once a day).

So the claim that the photos simply disappear after viewing turned out to be false advertising when there were so many easy ways to retrieve those photos, ignoring even the analog hole. Even then the claim they disappear is meaningless because of the analog hole, so it's an intentional fraud since users believe that once it's gone, it's gone. No more compromising images hanging around!

Re:Smells Fishy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46962675)

NSA could get data from Snapchat easily if they wanted, a fake SSL-cert and redirecting that part of the tube would give them every nude they ever wanted.

Vanishing Ink (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954503)

What happened to the startup Vanishing Ink? I recall they were around sometime close to 2001. They were doing this long before snapchat.

And yeah, duh, you can always screenshot the msg.

In related news, (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954619)

- The MPAA will be suing manufacturers of tape records because users can make recordings of songs they hear.
- Many prominent artists have formed an alliance with the aim of destroying Canon, Nikon, and other companies who sell cameras, as they are clearly supporting photographers in the theft of the artists' intellectual property.
- God has rocked with the world with not just His sudden appearance but His lawsuit against humanity for making unauthorized copies of Creation in their memories. When asked for comment, He replied "Yes I gave them a brain, but I never expected them to use it that way!"

first (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46954729)

of *BSD asswipEs Posts. Therefore OpenBSD, as the Niggers everywhere at times. From our cause. Gay triumphs would soon Are you GAY

20 years (1)

manu0601 (2221348) | about 7 months ago | (#46955487)

There is little chance Snapchat remains as is for 20 years. The bankrupt case is easy to handle, but what happens to supervision if they merge with another company? Does the supervision follows? I guess that would lower company valuation a lot.

If you think nobody has an extra camera (1)

iamacat (583406) | about 7 months ago | (#46955709)

You should refrain from using Internet and especially posting any compromising content. Just take a picture of your tablet with your phone or vice versa and presto!

Alternative: Glimpse (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | about 7 months ago | (#46956439)

http://techcrunch.com/2014/03/... [techcrunch.com]

"Images are truly ephemeral: They disappear after being viewed, from a user’s inbox as well as the Glimpse servers. Photos are shown for eight seconds, while video is just four seconds or shorter..."

absurd claim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#46957331)

The idea that something you send cannot be recorded is so obviously absurd that I no reasonable person would believe it. This is like sueing Red Bull because it didn't give you actual wings.

How to "defeat security".in these apps (1)

knorthern knight (513660) | about 7 months ago | (#46970737)

* Receive email from Snapchat's/whoever's servers
* Plug in a USB connecter
* Read contents of your inbox
* Transfer a copy to your PC
* Decode copy at leisure

Unless Snapchat has a client-side app that totally takes over your smartphone/tablet there is no way to protect against this attack.

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