Snapchat: why parents should be concerned
Recently a parent wrote in with questions about Snapchat:
“When a child posts this to her friends and has a private setting put on her friends to follow her, does that pic go to anyone else? Can someone else who she does not have set up to follow her have access to her pics and postings? Thanks for any information you can help with this."
Our Information Security Officer cautions against its use
This email was particularly timely with the recent news of nude photo leaks from people using Snapchat and logging in through third party apps.
Jody Hawkins, Information Security Officer at Cook Children’s, cautions parents about the use of free apps for social activity.
“Very few people have read the entire agreement of any social media app, let alone any of it,” Hawkins (pictured at right) said. “What they all have in common (in lay terms) is that you are using a free app, you consent to being completely responsible for the content you post, you cannot hold the app owner responsible for anything, the apps settings can change at any time, your privacy settings can change at any time and it is your responsibility to ensure your settings are valid with every single use. What this means is, just because you set the app to private today, this does not mean it will still be private tomorrow (or next week, month, etc.). You have to constantly keep checking the settings.”
Beyond that, Hawkins said user agreements will typically say that you have no explicit ownership of anything you post. Meaning, once you post a picture, whatever happens with the picture after that point is out of your control and you cannot hold the app owner responsible. It also means all other users with access to that picture can do whatever they want with it because you willfully shared that picture (allowing a copy of the picture to be owned by another person or persons) on a public social media site, regardless of your privacy settings. The fine print usually stipulates that privacy settings do not guarantee any rights.
Snapchat allows users to set time limits from one second up to 10 seconds viewing time. After the time expires, the photos are supposed to be deleted. But Hawkins said that’s not exactly the case. With a minimum of technical know-how, someone can retrieve the supposedly deleted photos after the time expired.
Hawkins points out that this is all due to the nature of the social media. It is free of charge, but you have to use it at your own risk. Many lawsuits against app owners have failed due to these agreements.
“With that said, it is about trust,” Hawkins said. “If your child shares a photo privately (and the privacy settings are working as they should), then only the person or persons the photo was shared with would be able to see the photo. However, by the nature of the agreements of the site, the person or persons the photo was shared with now have ownership of a copy of that photo and could then share that publicly or privately with other individuals. In the latter case, that would be out of your child’s control.”
For someone who wants to know more, Hawkins recommends an article on wikihow regarding “how to stay safe on Snapchat” and asks parents to take Step No. 1 on the list very seriously.