Disposable message app Snapchat has garnered a loyal fanbase on the premise that it actually disposes those messages. But with confusion surrounding the information that SnapChat’s servers store, creeping paranoia about the NSA and an app that claims to be able to sneakily save photos and video, its easy to be concerned about whether it’s as private as users think it is.
In an attempt to clear the air, the company released a blog post Monday that outlines how Snapchat servers handle information — and who can tap that data given the right circumstances.
In the post, Snapchat Director of Operations Micah Schaffer reiterated that all “Snaps” are deleted from servers once they are opened. But unopened Snaps remain on the servers for roughly a month — although Schaffer assured users that no one actually looks at them.
However, the company has to produce those Snaps if law enforcement authorities produce a warrant that requires selected Snaps to be manually retrieved and turned over to the requesting party. Schaffer added that Snapchat has roughly fulfilled a dozen of these retrieval requests since May of this year, although authorities can request data of Snaps to be held while a warrant is procured.
However, data for Snapchat’s new “Stories” — repeatable messages that can be accessed for up to 24 hours — works a bit differently. Any Snaps assigned to a given story will be removed after those 24 hours are up, unless the police step in.
Schaffer also said that he’s one of only two people in the company who can manually retrieve Snaps, which includes Snapchat founder/CTO Bobby Murphy.
While Schaffer tries to allay concerns about the privacy of Snapchat, the blog post doesn’t necessarily outline the loopholes many are jumping through to make Snaps permanent without the sender’s knowledge. And, as we’re living in an age of risky photos and the ensuing revenge porn born out of sour love, it’s not so much the level of access the company has to its own data than the ways that average users can access it to exploit and humiliate others.