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Snapchat settles with Maryland, can't claim snaps 'disappear forever'

Thursday - 6/12/2014, 1:38pm  ET

Snapchat (Snapchat)
In its settlement with Maryland, Snapchat will avoid saying snaps 'disappear forever.' (Snapchat)

WASHINGTON -- Mobile app developer Snapchat has reached a settlement with the state of Maryland, and agrees to avoid claiming its photo and video messages "disappear forever."

One month after Snapchat reached a similar settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler announced the deal.

"Despite Snapchat's marketing claims to the contrary, no company can fully prevent content you send to someone else from being copied, shared or posted online," said Gansler in a statement.

"Companies that operate on the Internet or on mobile devices, especially those popular among youth, have a responsibility to protect their users' privacy and to be upfront about what personal information they collect and the permanency of uploaded files," said Gansler.

"Consumers may have sent sensitive snaps that they intended not to be saved or seen by anyone but the recipient, only to discover that they were saved or distributed to others," says Gansler..

A posting on the Snapchat blog points out that while others may have found ways to preserve images that are supposed to disappear, the company doesn't do it.

"They never allege, find, or suggest that Snapchat itself retains our users' Snaps. That's important," says Snapchat.

In its statement, Snapchat says the images have always disappeared from the company's servers, but the Maryland settlement aims to discourage a false belief that the images are never seen again.

"Both agencies thought our users might not have fully appreciated the extent to which their Snaps could be saved by recipients, whether by taking a screenshot or using some other mechanism. Whatever the merit of that concern, it's one that is old news by now. As we explained when we entered into our agreement, we long since revised our privacy policy and other public statements to make perfectly clear that while Snapchat deletes all viewed Snaps from its servers' recipients can always save them," says Snapchat.

Under 13 not allowed

Gansler also alleged Snapchat collected and maintained the names and phone numbers from consumers' electronic contact lists.

According to Gansler, Snapchat has not always disclosed the practice to consumers, and consumers did not have the opportunity to consent or decline.

Gansler also claimed although Snapchat was aware some of its users were under the age of 13, the mobile application failed to comply with the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, and a rule that prohibits operators of online services from knowingly collecting personal information from children without verifiable parental consent.

Snapchat counters, "The Maryland AG recognizes in this agreement that Snapchat's terms of service have always provided that the app 'is intended for use by people who are 13 years of age or older, and Snapchat has instituted a number of controls to ensure that that limit is respected.'"

The settlement also requires Snapchat to make a $100,000 payment to the state, Gansler says.

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