FTC Beats Snapchat – Important Privacy Policy Lessons

I often stress the need to keep your Privacy Policy up-to-date; case in point, Snapchat’s settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.  In the action, the FTC found that Snapchat deceived users with incorrect claims about privacy and misrepresented its data collection practices.  Ultimately, the FTC subjected Snapchat to 20 years of independent privacy monitoring.

A few key lessons:

1.  Don’t misrepresent.  All representations about your software must be accurate, especially those concerning privacy.  If you don’t secure the app using X methods, don’t say that it is secured that way!  As the FTC states, “Any company that makes misrepresentations to consumers about its privacy and security practices risks FTC action.”

2.  Keep the Privacy Policy up-to-date.  The development team should keep track of all information collected by the software and loop the legal team in whenever a new feature or element is added.  Often misrepresentations result from outdated privacy policies that do not keep pace with software development.  Further, if marketing wants to make claims about software privacy, make sure to run the claims by the legal team first – best not to make public claims that conflict with the privacy policy.

3.  If you have information, act!  If users point out securities flaws with your software, seriously consider them and document action taken in response.  In Snapchat’s case, numerous users pointed out security flaws that were disregarded and such conduct certainly factored into the FTC’s decision.

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