Snapchat swipes back at Amnesty in data row - 'we care deeply about privacy'

Snapchat swipes back at Amnesty in data row - 'we care deeply about privacy'

Snapchat has reportedly hit back at Amnesty International after the human rights group alleged that major messaging apps were failing to take basic measures to ensure privacy.

A letter penned by Snapchat's general counsel, Chris Handman, addressed to Amnesty's head of technology and human rights Sherif Elsayed-Ali said the upstart cared "deeply about privacy," and that it has taken "great strides to preserve those freedoms."

Published in i newspaper today (21 October), the correspondence saw Handman refute Amnesty's claims: "Privacy and security are foundation values at Snapchat. That is not just a slogan. We released our first transparency report just a few years into the company's existence, long before most companies take that important step," he argued.

"To date," it continued, "we have not received any formal government demands for a 'backdoor,' if that day were ever to come, we would oppose it across board - just as we would oppose any measure that would compromise the security of the platform."

The retaliation follows Amnesty's report into the privacy measures of the world's most popular messaging service, including the likes of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype and BlackBerry's BBM.

“If you think instant messaging services are private, you are in for a big surprise. The reality is that our communications are under constant threat from cybercriminals and spying by state authorities," Elsayed-Ali, said in a news release about the study.

"Young people, the most prolific sharers of personal details and photos over apps like Snapchat, are especially at risk."

Each of the 11 companies examined was given a scorecard based on the way they used encryption to protect users' privacy and freedom of expression - Facebook and Apple's iMessage were lauded for scoring 73 and 67 respectively out of a possible 100 on this metric. Meanwhile, Snapchat, Tencent and Blackberry each scored less than 30 according to the non-profit.

Snapchat uses encryption, but it has yet to embrace more secure end-to-end encryption - something that Apple and Facebook were praised for implementing in Amnesty's report.

It's understood that pictures sent via Snapchat are deleted from the company's servers once they are opened by the intended recipient, with the company saying that messages can't typically be retrieved from its servers by anyone, for any reason. Unopened Snaps, however, are stored on the servers for up to 30 days before being deleted.

Handman ended his letter to Amnesty by saying that the messaging service looked forward to continuing a dialogue about the "important issue" in future.

While Snapchat has been lauded for the unique way it combines transparency and privacy, this isn't the first time its data policies have come under the microscope. A survey following on from the firm's rebrand to Snap Inc found nearly half of US adults wouldn't be comfortable wearing the upstart's Spectacles around a stranger to to security concerns.

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