Several employees of Snapchat have taken advantage of their position to access personal data of users, as revealed by Motherboard. The information had been reported by two former workers and a current worker of the company, which recently broke record revenue and regained popularity in the network.
The publication has had access to several internal emails describing the tools that employees would have used to carry out the espionage and access data such as user geolocation, their saved Snaps and other personal information such as telephone number or emails.
“The espionage would have been carried out through SnapLion, a tool for internal use.”
According to the sources, espionage would have been carried out through SnapLion, a tool for internal use that stores users’ data and that, originally, was created as a result of several valid requests from the American justice system. The same sources suggest that the Spam and Abuse department had access to this tool and that its main use was to combat bullying among users of the platform. Two other departments may also have had access to SnapLion.
The use of these tools is common in the technology industry: many companies use them to prepare customer reports, comply with laws and enforce the terms and policies of the network. The problem comes when the information is used for illegitimate purposes, as it seems to have happened in the case of Snapchat.
According to the sources consulted, the espionage of the employees occurred a few times and was carried out by several individuals. An internal email from the company reveals a discussion among several workers about this violation of user privacy and how it could be combated.
Although the investigations do not provide details on how espionage has occurred, a former employee has confirmed that, during its first years of life, SnapLion offered enough freedom to employees in the use of user data, without a good level of control over Its use. This irregularity could have been corrected years later. Another former employee has pointed to the use of the tool to reset hacked passwords, in addition to other unspecified uses.
This case of malpractice calls even more attention when it comes to Snapchat, an application whose popularity lies largely in the effervescence of the contents, which are eliminated if they are not saved by the user. The company has also taken pride in taking the privacy of its customers very seriously and introducing very strict measures to access its data.
It is, however, an increasingly frequent trend among technology companies. Facebook already fired several employees last year for these bad uses, as well as Uber, whose employees have been denounced for spying on ex-partners, politicians and celebrities.