An update to the hugely popular photo and video sharing app Snapchat’s Terms of Service (ToS) has today been clarified by the app’s developers in reaction to widespread public concern. Two days ago outrage erupted online after Snapchat published its updated ToS document. The revised document appeared to inform users that Snapchat will from now on be granted full rights to any photos and videos sent using the software.
Snapchat is an app that is well known for being a safe method to send one-time instances of user created photo and video content, which disappears immediately after viewed. Although the new terms and conditions continue to state that users retain ownership over their original content, the updated ToS has caused panic because of the following clause,
‘worldwide, perpetual, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license to host, store, use, display, reproduce, modify, adapt, edit, publish, create derivative works from, publicly perform, broadcast, distribute, syndicate, promote, exhibit and publicly display that content in any form and in any and all media or distribution methods (now known or later developed).’
That portion of the ToS has made many people fear that Snapchat will from now on be keeping a database of content sent via the platform, which it could share with its partners, and publish elsewhere at its discretion. Following widespread condemnation of these new Terms, Snapchat has today been forced to issue a statement on its blog that dispels those concerns – commenting that,
‘The snaps and chats you send your friends remain as private today as they were before the update.’
Snapchat’s developers also reinforce on its blog that all user created content will still be deleted from its servers as soon as it is viewed by its intended recipient. According to the company, this means that it will remain impossible for Snapchat (or its partners) to share user created content with any third party for the sake of advertising or otherwise. “The important point is that Snapchat is not – and never has been – stockpiling your private snaps or chats,” it writes in the blog.
In the old terms of service, Snapchat only reserved the right to store and share content posted to the ‘Live Story’ section of the app – a right that the new Terms of Service definitely and concisely expands on. However, if what Snapchat has today said on its blog is true, it completely boggles the mind as to why Snapchat’s lawyers have seen the need to update the app’s Terms of Service – causing so much controversy.
According to Snapchat, the reason for the legal extension of the rights it holds over user created content is only because it needs to have ‘a broad licence to use the content you create,’ and here is where the truth of the matter is revealed. Snapchat has realised that it may be able to monetize user content by charging people to see further replays of the content that they receive. Perhaps your friend has sent you a video that is so funny that you wish to see it again – pay a small fee and the video will be playable once more – don’t pay and Snapchat will delete it as it used to.
Despite these plans to start creating new revenue streams from user generated content, Snapchat claims it will still not extend who has the right to see user content, or who has the right to publish that material,
Despite these clarifications from Snapchat – which are likely to appease most people’s sense of privacy and safety using the app – sadly what many people do not realise is that content sent via Snapchat may well still resurface again. This is because of the average smartphone’s built-in capability to take screenshots. This ability means that despite Snapchat’s promise not to keep a database of photos and videos sent using the platform, it can in no way guarantee that any media sent via the app will only be seen once.
Contrary to this frighteningly popular belief, it only takes a quick screengrab for the photo to be captured on a device to be repeat-viewed by its recipient (and shared) as many times as they wish. For this reason, a large element of caution is advised when using any app that promises to delete content once it has been viewed.