Snapchat Employees Accessed Private Users’ Data With Special Tools

According to sources, Snapchat tools such as Snaplion was abused by employees to snoop on users’ private data.

Published24 May 2019, 07:21 AM IST
Tech News
2 min read

Amidst the raging debate over privacy concerns around social media and networking apps, Snapchat may have landed itself in fresh trouble.

Former and current employees of the multimedia messaging app have revealed that at one point, the company had dedicated tools that allowed employees to access Snapchat users’ data, including location information, saved Snaps and phone numbers.

According to a Vice Motherboard report published on Friday, 24 May, two former employees, a current employee, and internal company emails have indicated that one such tool, called SnapLion, was "abused" by employees to "spy on users' private information or profiles."

The report, however, did not specify when this tool was used at the company.

Speaking on the idea behind SnapLion, two former employees said that it was introduced to combat bullying or harassment on the platform.

They also added that SnapLion was used to gather information on users in "response to valid law enforcement requests such as a court order or subpoena."

Misuse Occurred a Few Times, Matter on Privacy Discussed on E-mail

One of the former employees also revealed that the abuse of data occurred "a few times" adding that the matter being discussed “broadly” on the company's email thread.

An email thread accessed by Vice Motherboard read, "Protecting privacy is paramount at Snap. We keep very little user data... Unauthorized access of any kind is a clear violation...results in immediate termination."

It was also revealed that departments within the company such as "Customer Ops" and security staff had access to SnapLion.

However, it is unclear whether employees were ever found snooping into users’ data and if any action was taken against them.

Blow to Tech Industry

If the report is accurate, the latest revelation will be a big blow to Snapchat as several tech giants such as Facebook and Google are caught in the muddle of breach of privacy related matters.

For instance, a Facebook security engineer was fired in 2018 after he was accused of stalking women online possibly by abusing his “privileged access” to data.

Speaking on the threat on breach of privacy, former chief information security officer at Facebook, Alex Stamos told Vice, users need to understand that "anything they're doing that is not encrypted is, at some point, available to humans."

Snapchat introduced end to end encryption in January of this year.

(With inputs from Vice Motherboard)

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