Pando

Snapchat cracks down on third-party apps to bolster user security

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 22, 2014

From The News Desk

Snapchat has disappeared from Windows Phone.

The ephemeral messaging service doesn't offer an official app on the moribund platform, and Snapchat has reportedly asked Microsoft to remove third-party applications from the Windows Phone Store.

That's sure to frustrate consumers who relied on those applications to access Snapchat, but it's also a victory of sorts, because using those unofficial apps undermines the peace of mind afforded by the supposedly-temporary nature of items sent via the service.

Snapchat warned about that possibility after thousands of images shared on its network were leaked in October. It then said in November that because some developers "build services that trick Snapchatters and compromise their accounts" it would ask users to stop using unauthorized apps. Now it's just trying to remove third-party apps entirely.

It's hard to argue against Snapchat's decision when the images leaked in October were reportedly captured via SnapSaved, a now-defunct third party service that allowed its users to save the images sent to them. Here's why that was a problem, as I explained back in October:

There was little Snapchat users could have done to protect themselves from the leak besides keeping their images to themselves and not trusting that they would disappear when the timer ran out in Snapchat’s application. They didn’t know that images were being sent to SnapSaved, and SnapSaved users probably didn’t know that the site was grabbing every image it processed.
SnapSaved eventually tried to defend itself from reports of its involvement with the photo leak, but based on the service's Facebook page, it was clearly up to no good:
This wasn’t a harmless website that inadvertently made it possible for someone’s private images to be shared on the Internet. It was made specifically for people who wanted to save photos, even though the sender assumed they’d be deleted in just a few seconds. Even worse, it’s now made those images available to people who were never supposed to see them in the first place.
Which isn't to say the applications removed from the Windows Phone Store today were built with the same nefarious intent. Most of the apps were made because Snapchat, like other large companies, hasn't yet bothered to release an official Windows Phone app.

But that doesn't mean these apps might not have introduced problems of their own, and Snapchat would inevitably be blamed for something outside its control. So it has started preventing consumers from using unauthorized apps, just like it said in November, and is now working to ensure no one else can download similar software in the meantime.

The end result is a more secure service people can use without having to worry that the recipient uses an unsafe third-party app. If Snapchat has to piss off a few users to get there, well, so be it.

[Illustration by Brad Jonas for Pando]