Pando

The FTC's settlement with Snapchat could signal the beginning of improved privacy tools

By Nathaniel Mott , written on December 31, 2014

From The News Desk

The Federal Trade Commission has settled its complaint relating to Snapchat's misleading claims round the impermanence and security of messages sent via its mobile platform.

As part of the settlement, which does not include any fines, Snapchat will be barred from misrepresenting itself to consumers and must create a "comprehensive privacy program" audited by an "independent privacy professional" for the next two decades.

Snapchat won't be the last company targeted by the FTC for its false claims about user privacy. The commission is said to be working to ensure all applications are honestly marketed to consumers, and it's focusing its early attention on privacy-focused software.

That focus on ensuring companies provide their users with all advertised security features is going to become more important as developers attempt to cash in on the rising demand for services that don't collect and transmit all kinds of data. Or, as I have taken to describing the trend, trying to get rich off the post-Snowden gold rush.

Plenty of services promise "secure" communications to attract users. Wickr offers self-destructing text messages; Wire boasts encrypted video calls; and now even WhatsApp has tapped an outside company to add end-to-end encryption to its own applications.

The list could go on, and while the FTC is unlikely to make sure products actually keep consumers safe from snooping by law enforcement or intelligence agencies, it might be able to ensure that products built on their privacy claims aren't being wholly disingenuous.