It’s now Snap’s turn in the spotlight over user privacy. This piece from Motherboard details an internal Snap tool, called SnapLion, that was built to assist law enforcement inquiries. SnapLion has the ability to access user information like location, saved photos and email addresses. This piece alleges there were several incidents in the past when employees used the tool to access personal data.
The tool itself is not at issue. Most tech companies have software to expedite law enforcement requests for data, and there are other uses for them, like helping people reset their passwords when accounts get hacked. The problem comes, obviously, when these tools are abused. Unfortunately, this story doesn’t offer a timeline of when these alleged abuses took place nor does it have the details of what went down. If they took place many years ago and the company put in place reforms to stop this from happening, it seems like a less pressing concern. Also, if it came to it, I’d bet Snap would be happy to put its user data protection policies up against Facebook or Uber and have people judge which has been the more circumspect.
That said, the report serves as a reminder that even a data-deleting product like Snapchat still stores some personal information. You can hope the company has the policies in place to protect that, but abuses are still possible. If that makes you uncomfortable, abstinence may be your best protection.