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Editorials

May 12, 2014

In Our Opinion: Privacy is in the eye of the beholder

“The Internet is forever, and people don’t realize that. ... You think you can delete a tweet or a Facebook post, but it doesn’t go away.”

— Security expert Nico Sell

The mobile messaging service Snapchat is in hot water with the Federal Trade Commission for promising its users something that sounds virtually impossible: photos (or videos) that disappear after 10 seconds. 

If you are thinking right now of the self-destructing recordings seen on the television show “Mission: Impossible,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. 

With Snapchat, though, there is no explosion or ominous music as a cue; the image (or video) simply vanishes after the allotted time. 

Well — sort of.  

In a way, the company’s settlement with the FTC doesn’t tell us anything new. The federal inquiry dates back a year, to an article in Forbes magazine that revealed technical workarounds to retrieve the “disappeared” files. 

Even before that, it doesn’t take a technical genius to realize that you could simply use another phone (or, gasp, an actual camera) to forever capture a Snapchat image, no matter how fleetingly it is displayed. 

So the story a company wants us to believe about its product is perhaps not quite exactly entirely true. 

Shocking. Absolutely shocking. 

Sarcasm aside, Snapchat’s settlement of the six-count complaint against it is yet another reminder — as if we need one — that privacy and the Internet just don’t seem to go well together, especially when social media are involved. 

We applaud the FTC for taking this company to task for not doing an adequate job to protect its users’ privacy and personal information. 

As FTC Chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a statement, “If a company markets privacy and security as key selling points in pitching its service to consumers, it is critical that it keep those promises.” 

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