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Snapchat Hacked, But Not Really

Privacy Violations Not Just For The Stars

If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last few weeks, you probably know that the public distribution of intimate photos is all the rage these days. From Jennifer Lawrence to Nick Hogan, if you weren’t having your privacy horrifically violated then you weren’t anyone this September.

And now those dastardly hackers are at it again. With the news that over 200,000 Snapchat images have been stolen from a database over the past weekend, the general public can now feel just like a Hollywood star: betrayed, vulnerable and afraid. Dubbed The Snappening, in a witty and timely reference to the celebrity hack known as The Fappening, the cache of pictures appears to be have been gathered from the servers of a third-party app called Snap Save which allows users to save the otherwise ephemeral photos.

It is this fact which has allowed Snapchat to absolve themselves of any responsibility for the event. In a public statement they said that ‘We can confirm that Snapchat’s servers were never breached and were not the source of these leaks. Snapchatters were victimized by their use of third-party apps to send and receive Snaps, a practice that we expressly prohibit in our Terms of Use precisely because they compromise our users’ security.’

This isn’t technically true; Snapchatters were victimized by the use of third-party apps by the people to whom they were sending these racy images. It’s possible (and likely) that the individuals in these photos had no idea that the images were being permanently saved – indeed that’s rather the point of these services. Nonetheless, it is rather unfair to wholly blame Snapchat for the debacle. 

Some are saying that Snapchat should have done more to educate its users about the dangers of sending explicit images, but there is a limit to these companies’ responsibilities; no one’s calling for Kodak’s head whenever someone gets hold of a private picture and passes it around. It’s important to remember in these cases that the companies are nothing more than a platform, and unlike in the case of the Apple iCloud hack Snapchat wasn’t promising something it didn’t deliver in terms of security. The focus for blame must remain on those directly accountable – those whose theft of private pictures Jennifer Lawrence denounced as a sex crime.

There was some second-guessing around whether the hack was real, with some claiming that many of the images are old ones which have floating around cyberspace for a few years. In addition, the man who first publicised the hack, Kenny Withers, is a social media strategist from Toronto – a scenario oddly reminiscent of the alleged publishing of private Emma Watson pictures which turned out to be a hoax by a digital marketing company. The general consensus seems to be, however, that at least a proportion of the 200,000 pictures listed are indeed the result of a genuine hack.

There isn’t a great deal which those affected can do. Without the might of a Hollywood legal team behind them there’s little chance of getting the pictures removed even from the major sites, as eventually was the case with places like Reddit and TMZ. The best they can do is take a lesson from it: if you want someone to see you naked, show them in real life and turn off your phone.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Snapchat Hacked, But Not Really Reviewed by Douglas Clarke-Williams on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 Rating: 5
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