Snapchat messages disappear

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This is Snapchat

Snapchat is a messenger with which you can send messages in the form of pictures and short video clips. The special thing about Snapchat is that the messages disappear from the recipient's device after a short time.

According to its own information, the app has more than 265 million active users every day (as of February 2021). It is particularly popular among young people, the conditions of use stipulate a minimum age of 13 years.

In 2016, the California-based company, founded in 2011, changed its name from Snapchat Inc. to Snap Inc. Since January 2019, sent content has been end-to-end encrypted.

The service earns money through special advertising formats: For a fee, companies can set up so-called "discover channels", distribute advertising in the form of "stories" or offer their own photo filters.

Do messages disappear completely?

Private messages are deleted as soon as both chatters have viewed them and left the chat. It is also possible to keep messages for 24 hours and only then make them disappear. Messages to group chats are deleted after 24 hours, even if not all group members have viewed them.

There are also so-called stories that are visible in their own channel for 24 hours and can be viewed as often as required within this time. They consist of videos, images and animations that can be subtitled and edited. You can determine who can see the stories: everything is possible from the whole world to certain contacts.

When the messages “disappear”, however, they are not immediately deleted from the device. Depending on the operating system, only the file name is initially changed so that the photo manager no longer recognizes a so-called snap as a photo. With a little technical background knowledge and additional apps, however, the snaps can be restored.

The images are not only stored on the device, but also on Snapchat's servers in the USA. They stay there until they are accessed by the user or the display time has expired. After that they will be deleted automatically. The service explains exactly when and which content is deleted on its support pages.

Despite the volatility, the following also applies to Snapchat: Before sending something, you should be absolutely sure that you can live with it if this image - for whatever reason - remains in circulation for a longer period of time.

Filters and face recognition

Snapchat is particularly popular because of the fun filters that users can use to edit images. These filters are called “lenses” by Snapchat. You can use them to animate portraits and add a dog's tongue, for example. To do this, Snapchat scans the face and then places a stencil over it.

The Snapchat help pages used to explain that this was object recognition, not face recognition. The lenses should be able to recognize that it is a face and where, for example, the eyes are. But you shouldn't be able to recognize a specific face. In April 2021, company information on this point could no longer be found.

A patent that Snapchat registered in 2016 according to Business Insider magazine shows that the company was already working on facial recognition technologies. It is unclear whether and when this will be used.

US consumer protection reviews Snapchat

In 2014, the American consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission, accused Snapchat of deceiving users and breaking their data protection promise by handling information and snaps differently than explained.

The service used the "Find Friends" function to gain access to address book and location data without the knowledge or consent of the iOS app users. Snapchat also did not properly secure this function, so that attackers had access to the phone numbers and names of 4.6 million users.

When checking the service, the authority also found major errors in terms of data security: pictures and videos deleted from the app remained stored in the file system of the recipient device, where they could be easily read or copied to a computer.

Overall, a whole list of allegations was confirmed. In addition to the requirements to change their practice and create more transparency, an independent expert was appointed in 2014 to monitor the app for the next 20 years.

Snap Map: locate friends

In June 2017, Snapchat introduced the Snap Map feature. If you activate it, you can see where certain snaps are posted. You can determine who can see your whereabouts on the "Snap Map". So you can only share your location with selected friends, everyone, or nobody ("ghost mode").

However, the whereabouts are not only transmitted when you post a snap - but every time you open the app. Unlocked contacts can always see where you are when the app is running.

If you haven't opened the app for eight hours, the company says you will disappear from the card.

This is what the privacy policy says

Snapchat explains clearly and in German what data the company collects for what and how it passes it on. On the one hand, the company stores all data that you provide yourself and send via the service ("data that you give us voluntarily"). This also includes telephone number, email address and date of birth; this information is requested when registering.

Anyone who sends content in live stories, local stories or other crowdsourcing content grants Snap Inc. and its business partners the right to use and sell this content without restriction, and to publish the names of the users in the process. Of course, Snapchat also stores connection and metadata - i.e. who sends what to whom, when, which snaps are viewed, and so on.

The app also collects certain information about the device, for example the type of device and the operating system. Snapchat uses the data to improve the services, to analyze usage, but also for personalized advertising. Snapchat can be granted the right to pass on the data to third parties, such as partner companies, service providers and dealers, to law enforcement authorities and the like.

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