Snapchat has become popular among teenagers due to its feature that allows them to send self-destructing images and videos that disappear after a short time from both phones and the company's servers. It is this feature which has helped Snapchat become so widely used among them; they often use it to share intimate pictures between themselves, friends and family; yet those intimate snaps may have been leaked online via 4chan announcement dubbed the Snappening."
Hackers responsible for making Snapchat photos publicly available online claim they were able to gain access through a misconfiguration in one of the servers hosting SnapSaved, a third-party app allowing Snapchat recipients to save messages instead of immediately deleting them after being seen. Though now gone, SnapSaved used to redirect to a Danish e-commerce website selling set-top boxes and TV antennas before it went down completely.
As soon as a leaked Snapchat was found, many were quick to point out that Snap's terms of service prohibit third-party apps from archiving messages. SnapSaved creators apparently broke these rules - according to an official spokesperson at Snap, their developers broke our trust and left users vulnerable.
Notably, even if your Snaps weren't uploaded to any third-party app, they could still expose personal data as image files don't vanish when their expiration dates arrive. According to reports by an alleged leaker on 4chan forums, many of the images that were uploaded weren't sexual in nature and forum posts indicate this trend.
At this point, it may be easier to simply forgive and forget hackers; but their actions have brought to light an important discussion on just how safe the app is for its millions of users - including many teenagers.
Consider that many of those people could have easily been under 18 when they sent these private photos.
Snapchat issued an apology via their Twitter and Facebook accounts for any confusion this might cause, blaming third-party apps that allow users to save messages for later retrieval as culprits, invoking its Terms of Service as grounds against using third-party applications like this in lieu of using Snapchat itself for photos and videos intended to disappear quickly.
The Snappening serves as another reminder that no privacy can be guaranteed on the Internet. Without sole recipient messages, your personal conversations could easily be leaked and read. That is something Snapchat must emphasize to its users: protecting not just yourself but those closest to us is of equal importance.