Oh, Snap! They’re Not Really Gone Forever After All.


Snapchat’s most beloved feature is actually not as temporary as you think it is.

When Snapchat hit the social media scene in 2011, they immediately branded themselves in users’ minds as an app that allows you to send ‘disappearing’ photo messages. Disappearing in that the ‘snaps’ are only viewable once and only for a set amount of seconds (with some replay and story exceptions). The app has given users the ability to connect with one another without the commitment of having anything they post be available for longer than a 24-hour period.

“Delete is our default,” was stated in Snapchat’s previous policy version. “In most cases, once we detect that all recipients have viewed a message, we automatically delete it from our servers.”

Today you can still send snaps that disappear after they have been viewed, but you may also be sending snaps that are stored in Snapchat’s servers… forever. In an update made available to Snapchat on Wednesday, the whereabouts of those ‘disappearing’ photo messages is addressed in a new and detailed privacy policy.

After updating the app, users are asked to accept the terms via an immediate pop-up, but are not made aware of the new privacy policy unless they visit an alternate page. The Terms of Service state that Snapchat has the rights to reproduce, republish, and save your photos, specifically in relation to the ‘Live Story’ feature.

It also goes on to say that the app may share your information with third parties, sellers, and providers. Snapchat, and whichever third parties they share your information with, is now automatically granted “unrestricted, worldwide, and perpetual right and license to your name, likeness, and voice, in any and all media distribution channels (now known or later developed) in connection with any Live Story or other crowd-sourced content you create, upload, post, send or appear in.”

“...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),” Snapchat’s updated Terms of Service reads. 

It is important to note that should they decide to store your content, they have “the right to distribute it at any time, publicly or privately, and through any form of media distribution that currently exists or that will exist,” Peter Rugg wrote in an article published on Inverse.

If the new update scares you, but you also have a Facebook or Instagram account, you’re a little late to the party. Instagram’s terms of service grant the company a royalty-free license similar to Snapchat’s, although Instagram has never claimed to provide the same private or ‘disappearing’ functions as Snapchat. Facebook’s privacy policy also provides a similar royalty-free, worldwide license to its user’s shared content, except that it only applies to content shared under the “Public Setting.”