BALTIMORE (Legal Newsline) – Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler announced a settlement on Thursday with Snapchat, Inc., a mobile app developer, to resolve allegations it engaged in deceptive trade practices and violated federal privacy laws.
Snapchat’s mobile application, which is popular among pre-teens and teens, allows users to send photograph and video messages called “snaps” to other users. Snapchat allegedly misled consumers when it represented that snaps are temporary and will disappear after they are opened and viewed by a recipient. Snap recipients can actually capture or copy snaps for later viewing and distribution.
Gansler alleged Snapchat users may have sent sensitive snaps they intended not to be saved or seen by anyone by the recipient that were saved or distributed to others. Snapchat also allegedly collected and maintained the names and phone numbers from consumers’ electronic contact lists and failed to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
“Despite Snapchat’s marketing claims to the contrary, no company can fully prevent content you send to someone else from being copied, shared or posted online,” Gansler said. “Companies that operate on the internet or on mobile devices, especially those popular among youth, have a responsibility to protect their users’ privacy and to be up front about what personal information they collect and the permanency of uploaded files.”
Under the terms of the settlement, Snapchat agreed to pay $100,000 to the state. Snapchat also agreed to disclose to users that the recipients of snaps may be able to capture or copy the photo or video messages they receive, to comply with COPPA, to obtain affirmative consent from consumers before it collects and saves contract information from consumers’ electronic address books and not to make false representations or material omissions in connection with its offer and sale of the Snapchat app.
Snapchat did not admit to any liability as part of the agreement.