PHOTO SHARING SERVICE Snapchat, an app that allows users to take photos knowing that they will be deleted forever once they've been seen by the intended recipient, has admitted that in certain circumstances it might hand your pictures over to the authorities.
In a blog post entitled "Who Can View My Snaps and Stories", Micah Schaffer of Snapchat's Trust and Safety department explained, "If we receive a search warrant from law enforcement for the contents of Snaps and those Snaps are still on our servers, a federal law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) obliges us to produce the Snaps to the requesting law enforcement agency."
Okay, so that's the law, but have they ever actually done it? Yes. Schaffer went on to explain that "about a dozen" of the warrants Snapchat has received have resulted in the exchange of data with an enforcement agency.
He was keen to emphasise that this is a drop in the ocean compared to the 350 million photos that Snapchat processes per day, and that only he and the co-founder of the business have access to retrieve photos from the Snapchat servers.
He went on to say that the new "stories" feature, while being covered by the same laws and jurisdictions, works differently, as these compilations of photos are deleted after 24 hours, whether opened or not.
Nevertheless this will come as another lesson to many in the art of reading the small print. Of course Snapchat is awash with opportunities to create compromising photos, and in essence you are protected from them ever getting into the wrong hands.
But when it comes to law enforcement, if they want the photos, they can get them. You have been warned. µ