Many people who distrust Facebook’s data collection practices laud the temporary nature of Snapchat, where posts disappear unless they’re specifically saved, but leaked emails say that Snapchat not only collects user data, but that data has been accessed by employees to spy on users.
According to Vice, Snapchat has long used a previously unreported internal tool called Snaplion to collect user information, initially to provide that information in the case of valid requests from law enforcement. But a host of Snapchat employees also had access to data from Snaplion, which meant access to saved Snaps, location information, email addresses, and phone numbers:
“Two former employees said multiple Snap employees abused their access to Snapchat user data several years ago. Those sources, as well as an additional two former employees, a current employee, and a cache of internal company emails obtained by Motherboard, described internal tools that allowed Snap employees at the time to access user data, including in some cases location information, their own saved Snaps and personal information such as phone numbers and email addresses. Snaps are photos or videos that, if not saved, typically disappear after being received (or after 24 hours if posted to a user’s Story).”
This isn’t the first accusation of the company being shady with data. In 2014, the Federal Trade Commission issued a fine after Snapchat failed to disclose the fact that it was collecting, storing, and transmitting geolocation data.
But the problem of employees abusing their access to data isn’t limited to Snapchat. The Vice story mentions Uber employees who spied on the locations of celebrities, politicians, and acquaintances, as well as Facebook employees using data to stalk exes. Not to mention the completely legal creepy shit social media companies do with data, like the fact that every time my roommate looks at man rompers on his desktop, I get weeks of targeted Facebook ads on my cellphone featuring various floral onesies with plenty of room for a penis I do not have.