$100,000 settlement with Maryland AG for Snapchat’s alleged privacy violations and deceptive “snaps”

Snapchat, Inc. (“Snapchat”) settled with the Maryland State Attorney General on June 11, 2014, for its alleged privacy violations under both Maryland state law and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (“COPPA”). Snapchat will pay $100,000 to the state and must revise its privacy policy disclosures to provide its users with more transparent explanations of its practices in its mobile messaging application. Transparency is one of the most important aspects of any mobile or web-based service or program; state attorneys generals and the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) will continue to monitor privacy policies for conspicuous disclosures. Snapchat must also ensure that it complies with COPPA requirements. Snapchat agreed to this settlement after the Maryland state attorney general filed a complaint against it for false claims that the “snaps” were disappearing after the application’s user viewed the message or video. The attorney general alleged that the snaps were not temporary which was a violation of the Maryland Consumer Protection Act. Additionally, Snapchat failed to obtain user consent to collect and store names and phone numbers from the users’ mobile device’s contact list. This included the collection of personal information from children under age 13 without verifiable parental consent, a violation of COPPA. This settlement comes after a May 8, 2014 settlement with the FTC for unfair and deceptive trade practices. Mobile application privacy is on the forefront. Compliance with state and federal laws is vital to an application’s success.