A breakdown of the data Snapchat collects about users – dot.LA | Team Cansler

Santa Monica-based app developer Snap calls itself a camera company, but it’s really in the business of social media — and more specifically, advertising.

Snapchat, their main application, collects a variety of data about its roughly 363 million daily active users, from basics like device information to detailed location tracking.

Therefore, as with most tech companies’ privacy policies and terms of service, the vocabulary is intentionally vague or heavy with legalese to get the user to sugarcoat it and click “Agree.” But Snapchat needs to give its users some details about how it collects, stores, and uses the data it gleans from interacting with the app.

Bill Budington, a senior technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, told dot.LA that the common phrase “necessary to deliver services” is of particular concern.

“These are very vague ways to basically give the green light to very permissive practices regarding your data,” Budington explained. Pointing out the ambiguity of the word “necessary,” he added: “[tech companies] can consider all sorts of things necessary [including] Using your location in every moment to better tailor their services to your life.”

While Snapchat’s terms of service haven’t changed since last November, the company last updated its privacy policy on July 29. Let’s dive into the different types of data Snapchat collects, how it stores it (and for how long), and perhaps most importantly, how Snapchat says it uses it.

Why Snapchat collects your location data

Snapchat is very interested in collecting users’ precise location data if users allow it. Launched in 2017, the Snap Maps feature allows users to choose to display their Bitmoji avatar on a map that matches their location and also allows them to track other friends who have signed up. It’s not dissimilar to Apple’s FindMy app.

In the past, the feature has raised concerns about its ability to make it easier for bullies and stalkers to find targets. But it can be disabled in iOS settings by not allowing Snapchat to access location. However, if you do, Snapchat warns that “certain services may lose functionality,” but it doesn’t say which ones.

However, the Snap Map location is not public information. Snapchat says location on Snap Maps disappears after 24 hours or when a user intentionally switches to “ghost mode” to hide from friends — but that doesn’t mean the app still isn’t tracking their movements. The company found that if you don’t opt-in to live location sharing, the Snap Map won’t update with your location unless you’re actively using it.

A Snap spokesperson told dot.LA that while many of Snapchat’s core features require location tracking, “location sharing is turned off for all users by default” and “Snapchatters have complete control over their location sharing.” Snapchat added that there’s no option to share your location with users you’re not friends with, and users must individually select friends to share their location with.

Snapchat clarified that it uses location data to provide its geofilters — custom photo and video filters that often target specific locations or events — and show people what’s nearby (also useful for advertising purposes).

“We do not share any personally identifiable information about Snapchat app users with data analytics providers,” Snap said.

Snapchat employees can also allegedly access all of this information and more — in 2019, Motherboard reported on a tool called SnapLion that was allegedly misused by employees to “spy on users.” Snap has not commented on the feature.

Snap\u2019s AR lenses are used in a public environment.

Courtesy of Snap Inc.

How Snapchat Uses Your Content

Everything you do in the Snapchat app is recorded by Snap, including your supposedly private messages. The company can see the snaps you send, who’s receiving them and how often you’re online, as well as the metadata in each image.

Snapchat’s streak feature (which tracks how long you and your friends regularly send and open content to each other) is one reason why the app also collects data on how often you and your friends open messages or take screenshots.

It also tracks and scans the content that users upload to its Memories feature. This is to train its AI to recognize the content of user images. In its privacy policy, Snapchat states that “if there is a dog in your photo, it may be searchable in Memories for the term ‘dog'” as part of its goal of making image searches more accessible.

Snap’s policy also dictates that any public content that a user generates on Snapchat is also freely available to the company, although it doesn’t say how it will share that content.

What data Snapchat collects by accessing your camera

Aside from its typical use for taking pictures, Snapchat can also access information from Apple’s TrueDepth camera – the front-facing, powerful cameras that Apple’s iPhone X uses to record Face ID and Memoji data.

Snapchat says it uses this data “to improve the quality of Lenses” — its filters and augmented reality feature. But it also said it doesn’t collect any biometric information, let alone store the data on its servers or share it with third parties.

Still, this is a practice that has recently come under scrutiny. In August, Snap was sued, accused of violating Illinois’ Biometric Information Privacy Act by collecting and storing biometric information from users without their consent. This $35 million case is expected to be settled next week after a judge failed to rule in favor of either party.

How Snapchat uses all this data

Now that we know all the information Snapchat collects, what does the company do with it?

The main use case is advertising. Snapchat has a variety of advertisers on its platform, all striving to convert users into sales by showing them the most relevant ads. Ad pricing starts at a modest $5 per day, so theoretically anyone with a marketing budget and the right connections could use Snap’s tools to market to its growing Gen Z and Millennial audience.

Snapchat promises advertisers “enhanced targeting capabilities” and the benefit of finding an audience based on location, demographics, interests, and device data.

But who gets this information? That’s where it gets vague. Snapchat doesn’t have to specifically tell users which companies get access to their data. The company advises that it may share information with service providers it contracts for services such as ad analytics or payments. The company also says it may share user information with “business partners who provide services and features” for Snapchat, but again doesn’t elaborate.

Snapchat also says it will share information about users if it could help “detect and resolve fraud or security concerns, comply with any investigation, legal process or regulation, and investigate possible violations of the Terms of Service.”

However, Snapchat does not have to tell users when it is sharing this data. In fact, most apps don’t.

How Snapchat Stores Your Data

Notes on Snap Support Site Snapchat servers are designed to automatically delete all snaps after all recipients have viewed them. the fleeting quality of the app’s trademark. The servers delete unopened snaps between two people after 31 days and unopened snaps sent to a group chat after 7 days. Snaps sent to your story are deleted from the servers 24 hours after they are posted.

Snapchat also says that if you delete a snap in chat, it will delete it from its servers and “will do our best” to delete it from your friends’ devices.

However, if you post a Snap in Memories, Snapchat’s servers will back them up forever – unless you delete them, in which case they will be deleted as soon as possible.

So what is the safest way to protect your personal information on Snapchat? Well, Budington recommends a simple fix: just don’t use it. But for people who are determined to keep their account but want access to what Snapchat collects, there are ways to download your Snapchat data.

You can also opt out of third-party targeting and activity-based ads and advertising networks. This means the ads on your Snapchat are less relevant, but the trade-off is that the app uses less of your personal information for marketing purposes.

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