Updates to Social Media Privacy: What You Need to Know


By Marianys Martes

Snapchat's privacy policies have surprised its users. Courtesy of AP
Snapchat’s privacy policies have surprised its users. Courtesy of AP

Nothing says living in the moment more than Snapchat. You snap a picture, upload it to your story, it is there for 24 hours and then poof! All gone. That might not be the case anymore due to Snapchat’s updated privacy policy. Effective October 28, Snapchat Inc. has drafted what they simply call “Terms” so that users are aware of the rules when using the app. The company has taken pride in removing the legalese from the Terms, making it easier for users to understand.

The opening paragraph of the Terms reads, “These Terms do indeed form a legally binding contract between you and Snapchat Inc. So please read them carefully.” But does anybody really read them? Do you really? Maybe now you should. As reported by The New York Post, the update states that Snapchat has the rights to reproduce, modify and republish your photos and save those photos to Snapchat’s servers, specifically in relation to the “Live Story” feature.

After downloading the new update, users are prompted to read and accept the new privacy policy. On snapchat.com/terms, the full policy is listed for users to read and decide whether or not they will be keeping or deleting the app. It states, “Many of our Services let you create, upload, post, send, receive, and store content. When you do that, you retain whatever ownership rights in that content you had to begin with. But you grant Snapchat a 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).”

While the Terms are pretty straightforward, Snapchat does not explicitly state that your private snaps will still automatically delete after they have been viewed. As a result, your snaps may not be as private as you thought they were. Instagram’s terms of service grants the company a royalty-free license to use content posted by its users. This means that Instagram has the right to use one of your photos for promotion and marketing. This is often seen through the “Explore” feature of the app.

Facebook’s privacy policy grants the company a royalty-free license as well. However, The New York Post reported that this is only applies to content published under the “Public Setting.” Detailed in Facebook’s terms, you can find the following, “You own all of the content and information you post on Facebook, and you can control how it is shared through your privacy and application settings. In addition: When you delete IP content, it is deleted in a manner similar to emptying the recycle bin on a computer. However, you understand that removed content may persist in backup copies for a reasonable period of time (but will not be available to others).”

The update has also prompted users to dig deeper into the privacy policies of other social networks like Instagram and Facebook. In contrast to Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook have never offered private or “instantly deleted” services. Nicole Chiuchiolo, FCRH ’16, said, “It prompts me to check the terms of other networks, especially Facebook. I usually just check that I agree to the terms and conditions without reading them because they are way too long. But I definitely put up a lot of personal information on Facebook that I would not be okay with people who aren’t my friends being able to see.”

With more than a million monthly users, Snapchat’s decision to make their Terms readable means users will be able to understand exactly what they are signing up for. Facebook attracts more than 1.9 billion users, while Twitter has 232 million users, but both have yet to remove the legalese from their privacy policies. We should all be aware of what we are accepting when deciding to download a new app when our pictures and personal information are involved.