Snapchat can now own your photos forever
Snapchat defends privacy update, saying service is as private as it was before Getty

Snapchat has attempted to pour cold water on reports that its new terms of service allows it to view and keep images shared by its millions of users, and sell them to advertisers. The social network, which lets users share photos that are deleted once viewed, insists it is as private now as it was before the update.

While the company admits that its Terms of Service "grants us a broad licence to use the content you create," it says images, videos and chat logs exchanged over Snapchat "remain as private today as they were before the update". The agreement reads: "The messages sent through our services are automatically deleted from our servers once we detect that they have been viewed or have expired."

Matters of public interest

But there are some exceptions. Some of Snapchat's services, like My Story, Replay and Live, "allow users to interact with the messages and content you provide through the service for a longer period of time." This content "may" be available on Snapchat's servers and the recipient's device after they have been viewed or expired. Images submitted to the live service, or other crowd-sourced stories, "are inherently public and chronicle matters of public interest," so Snapchat may "save them indefinitely and allow them to be viewed again through any of our services or third-party sources".

Replaying or syndicating content has been a part of Snapchat's terms of service since it launched in 2011. Included in the company's terms of service since at least November 2014, users grant Snapchat and its business partners "the unrestricted, worldwide, perpetual right and licence to use your name, likeness and voice in any and all media and distribution channels". The same applies to content such as images and messages published to Snapchat, and has done since at least November 2014. Snapchat has also reserved the right to access, review, screen and delete user content at any time since that same month.

'We want to be crystal clear'

Snapchat explained in a blog post published on 1 November: "We want to be crystal clear. The snaps and chats you send your friends remain as private today as they were before the update... the important point is that Snapchat is not – and never has been – stockpiling your private snaps or chats. And because we continue to delete them from our servers as soon as they're read, we could not – and do not – share them with advertisers or business partners."

In short, Snapchat says it does not share your photos with advertisers, but the terms of service allows it to if it wanted. This has been the case for almost a year.

However, some changes to Snapchat's privacy policy and terms of use were made. The company explains these changes were made "so that they'd read the way people actually talk." The company also "added language" to how it explains in-app purchases, of which more will be added in the future. Snapchat explains that it now needs permission to use your name "to make it a little easier for friends to find you on Snapchat".