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Now You See It, Now You Don’t. Or Do You?

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Snapchat, the hot app that promises messages disappear within seconds of appearing on the recipient’s phone, recently found itself in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC questioned several of Snapchat’s privacy claims, from location data collection to the very basis of the app’s existence—the self-destructing messages—and found major lapses in the company’s privacy monitoring and practices.

According to the FTC complaint, several of Snapchat’s privacy promises didn’t hold water, including collection of users’ location data; a bypass around warnings indicating a recipient had taken a screenshot of a message; and some types of “deleted” content actually becoming available when a device was connected to a computer.

The Snapchat case highlights the needs for businesses of all sizes—from extremely popular apps to mom-and-pop e-commerce sites and anyone in between—to pay special attention to consumer privacy protections. Just last December, global retailer Target found itself struggling to explain how 70 million customers’ payment and other private information was stolen from its servers.

If your business collects data from users, both the content of the data as well as the methods in which it is being transmitted needs to be examined and protected if necessary. Be sure to state explicitly what you are collecting from customers and site visitors, and be conscious of what you say about privacy and where. As was the case with Snapchat, the app’s privacy policy didn’t necessarily outline all of its privacy protections; many of the privacy related verbiage was found on the company website, on its FAQ page and on app store descriptions.

Most states have laws around data collection along with what needs to happen should there be a breach. Here’s a really good list from the National Conference of State Legislatures that outlines each state’s legislation around security breaches.

The good news is, focusing on customer privacy from the start not only helps you conform with online best practices, it puts you on the right track. As your business grows there’s bound to be additional scrutiny—and an FTC inquiry is the last thing anyone wants.

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May 27th, 2014 at 10:03 am

Posted in Legal News,Privacy

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