Snapchat employees abused company data access tools to spy on users

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 23
According to a report on Thursday, a number of Snap employees abused privileged data management tools to snoop on Snapchat users, in some cases potentially gaining access to location and contact information, as well as saved Snaps.




Citing past and current employees, along with internal Snap email correspondence, Motherboard reports the social media firm at one point fielded a number of tools that granted access to sensitive user data and profile content.

Similar to systems in use by other tech companies, Snap's tools were designed to fulfill legitimate data requests relating to customer issues, internal policy enforcement and other industry-standard purposes. For example, a tool called "SnapLion" was initially used to grant access to user information in the event that Snap was served a subpoena from law enforcement officials or data was demanded by court order.

While Snap policy prohibits perusal of user profiles, multiple employees illegitimately leveraged data access tools to spy on users, sources said. The illicit activity noted in the article took place several years ago and sources claim abuse occurred "a few times" by multiple people.

The exact nature of the intrusion is unknown, as are the tools used to accomplish the feat.

One former employee points directly to SnapLion, saying the tool lacked an adequate system for logging, or monitoring, users when it first debuted. Snap has since bolstered the system's security backbone. Further, the company notes internal data access tools are restricted to select employees.

"Protecting privacy is paramount at Snap. We keep very little user data, and we have robust policies and controls to limit internal access to the data we do have," a spokesperson said in a statement to the publication. "Unauthorized access of any kind is a clear violation of the company's standards of business conduct and, if detected, results in immediate termination."

A former employee familiar with SnapLion said the tool's scope has expanded beyond law enforcement requests and is now employed to reset passwords of hacked accounts and complete other user administration tasks, the report said.

Whether the abuse continues today is unknown, but both current and former employees lauded Snap's efforts toward user privacy.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 18
    flydogflydog Posts: 340member
    Not sure what makes this newsworthy.  A few years ago a few employees did something they weren't supposed to, and the company took steps to make sure it didn't happen again.  Might as well report every time a Circle K cashier steals change. 
  • Reply 2 of 18
    bvwjbvwj Posts: 8unconfirmed, member
    It reminds everyone that back doors are bad and will be abused every time they are available.
    chasmtycho_macuserronndesignrdysamoriaSpamSandwichStrangeDayswatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 18
    chasmchasm Posts: 1,667member
    flydog said:
    Not sure what makes this newsworthy.  A few years ago a few employees did something they weren't supposed to, and the company took steps to make sure it didn't happen again.  Might as well report every time a Circle K cashier steals change. 
    So you have evidence that this isn't still happening on any scale that isn't in the article? Oh wait, no you don't.

    The statement from Snap is absolute "we got caught" boilerplate stuff about protecting user privacy. If there are still human beings working for Snap, you can rest assured these tools are still being abused (hopefully less often than before), not always by Snap employees. Bvwj has it exactly right: back doors will be abused or leaked if they exist, and so only THE most trusted employees should EVER have access, and even then every keystroke and click should be logged when they use it.
    ronnwatto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 18
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 531member
    My experience with Snapchat is just short but o am surprised it’s allowed on AppStore. It’s just social network for PornHub and transgender girls selling their nudes.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 18
    djkfisherdjkfisher Posts: 115member
    Never used it and never will. Unnecessary in my world
    designrwatto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 18
    designrdesignr Posts: 531member
    chasm said:
    flydog said:
    Not sure what makes this newsworthy.  A few years ago a few employees did something they weren't supposed to, and the company took steps to make sure it didn't happen again.  Might as well report every time a Circle K cashier steals change. 
    So you have evidence that this isn't still happening on any scale that isn't in the article? Oh wait, no you don't.
    Just so you're aware, this is the "argument from ignorance" fallacy. You're basically assuming this is still is happening until someone proves to you it isn't. If someone believes this is still happening, the burden of proof is on them not the other way around.
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 7 of 18
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,283member
    frantisek said:
    My experience with Snapchat is just short but o am surprised it’s allowed on AppStore. It’s just social network for PornHub and transgender girls selling their nudes.
    1. I see countless examples of Snapchat usage that’s not porn. Maybe you’re only familiar with the porn angle because you’ve seen Snapchat images a lot while browsing for porn, but it’s not remotely “just a social network for pornhub”.

    2. If no one is being harmed, and it’s all consensual, what should anyone care if people use the tool for sexual purposes? Give humans a tool and some of them will use it for sexual purposes. We are sexual beings. Its just what people do. Do you have a problem with human sexuality?
    beowulfschmidt
  • Reply 8 of 18
    cornchipcornchip Posts: 1,390member
    Can’t believe it /s
    SpamSandwichwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 18
    djames4242djames4242 Posts: 554member
    dysamoria said:
    frantisek said:
    My experience with Snapchat is just short but o am surprised it’s allowed on AppStore. It’s just social network for PornHub and transgender girls selling their nudes.
    1. I see countless examples of Snapchat usage that’s not porn. Maybe you’re only familiar with the porn angle because you’ve seen Snapchat images a lot while browsing for porn, but it’s not remotely “just a social network for pornhub”.

    2. If no one is being harmed, and it’s all consensual, what should anyone care if people use the tool for sexual purposes? Give humans a tool and some of them will use it for sexual purposes. We are sexual beings. Its just what people do. Do you have a problem with human sexuality?
    This is all very off-topic, but my issue with Snapchat is the disappearing messages. What possible reason for this feature to exist could there be other than for kids to hide their conversations from their parents. It's horrible, and for that reason the app should be restricted to adults-only.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 18
    sflocalsflocal Posts: 4,700member
    Most system admins at many companies have access to the company jewels.  This is not a surprise.
    edited May 24
  • Reply 11 of 18
    flydogflydog Posts: 340member
    chasm said:
    flydog said:
    Not sure what makes this newsworthy.  A few years ago a few employees did something they weren't supposed to, and the company took steps to make sure it didn't happen again.  Might as well report every time a Circle K cashier steals change. 
    So you have evidence that this isn't still happening on any scale that isn't in the article? Oh wait, no you don't.

    The statement from Snap is absolute "we got caught" boilerplate stuff about protecting user privacy. If there are still human beings working for Snap, you can rest assured these tools are still being abused (hopefully less often than before), not always by Snap employees. Bvwj has it exactly right: back doors will be abused or leaked if they exist, and so only THE most trusted employees should EVER have access, and even then every keystroke and click should be logged when they use it.
     If you read what you typed a few times, the absurdity of your statement may finally dawn on you. 


    edited May 24
  • Reply 12 of 18
    flydogflydog Posts: 340member

    sflocal said:
    Most system admins at many companies have access to the company jewels.  This is nit a surprise.
    Exactly. 
  • Reply 13 of 18
    irelandireland Posts: 17,669member
    Slap on the wrist isn’t good enough here. Snapchat is basically the teenager chatting app for the western world. Hope Timmy makes an example of them.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 18
    dysamoria said:
    frantisek said:
    My experience with Snapchat is just short but o am surprised it’s allowed on AppStore. It’s just social network for PornHub and transgender girls selling their nudes.
    1. I see countless examples of Snapchat usage that’s not porn. Maybe you’re only familiar with the porn angle because you’ve seen Snapchat images a lot while browsing for porn, but it’s not remotely “just a social network for pornhub”.

    2. If no one is being harmed, and it’s all consensual, what should anyone care if people use the tool for sexual purposes? Give humans a tool and some of them will use it for sexual purposes. We are sexual beings. Its just what people do. Do you have a problem with human sexuality?
    This is all very off-topic, but my issue with Snapchat is the disappearing messages. What possible reason for this feature to exist could there be other than for kids to hide their conversations from their parents. It's horrible, and for that reason the app should be restricted to adults-only.
    I could see legitimate reasons why young people and adults might use it, 1. for exactly the reason you said - teens also need privacy and if their parents are ok with it then it is a legitimate way to communicate knowing/hoping that those messages/photos won't be shared so easily with third parties, parents or more likely, other kids. In the pre-internet world, my parents never monitored my face to face conversations, the letters we wrote, the phone conversations we had. Some control is necessary but to grow, kids need space. 2. People can communicate more freely and differently when they know the message will be gone, the same way that speech is, within seconds/minutes. I have barely any idea how SnapChat works, I think i used it once and it wasn't for me but that doesn't mean it has no legitimate use.
  • Reply 15 of 18
    frantisekfrantisek Posts: 531member
    dysamoria said:
    frantisek said:
    My experience with Snapchat is just short but o am surprised it’s allowed on AppStore. It’s just social network for PornHub and transgender girls selling their nudes.
    1. I see countless examples of Snapchat usage that’s not porn. Maybe you’re only familiar with the porn angle because you’ve seen Snapchat images a lot while browsing for porn, but it’s not remotely “just a social network for pornhub”.

    2. If no one is being harmed, and it’s all consensual, what should anyone care if people use the tool for sexual purposes? Give humans a tool and some of them will use it for sexual purposes. We are sexual beings. Its just what people do. Do you have a problem with human sexuality?
    Of course, there is many other users. But promoting and selling porn is prohibited by Snapchat rules and mainly AppStore rules. Reporting has low to zero effect. Snapchat may not catch up or does not care to keep as much users engaged as possible. There is no way to avoid underage get involved.
  • Reply 16 of 18
    chasm said:
    flydog said:
    Not sure what makes this newsworthy.  A few years ago a few employees did something they weren't supposed to, and the company took steps to make sure it didn't happen again.  Might as well report every time a Circle K cashier steals change. 
    So you have evidence that this isn't still happening on any scale that isn't in the article? Oh wait, no you don't.

    The statement from Snap is absolute "we got caught" boilerplate stuff about protecting user privacy. If there are still human beings working for Snap, you can rest assured these tools are still being abused (hopefully less often than before), not always by Snap employees. Bvwj has it exactly right: back doors will be abused or leaked if they exist, and so only THE most trusted employees should EVER have access, and even then every keystroke and click should be logged when they use it.
    Do you have evidence that it is still happening?  Oh wait, no you don't.

    What a conundrum!

  • Reply 17 of 18
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 418member
    designr said:
    chasm said:
    flydog said:
    Not sure what makes this newsworthy.  A few years ago a few employees did something they weren't supposed to, and the company took steps to make sure it didn't happen again.  Might as well report every time a Circle K cashier steals change. 
    So you have evidence that this isn't still happening on any scale that isn't in the article? Oh wait, no you don't.
    Just so you're aware, this is the "argument from ignorance" fallacy. You're basically assuming this is still is happening until someone proves to you it isn't. If someone believes this is still happening, the burden of proof is on them not the other way around.
    No, this is not an argument from ignorance. First, it merely points out the first commenter's statement is such a argument. 

    Second, the evidentiary issues involve burden of proof and burden of moving forward with evidence -- who should have which burdens and how these burdens shift as evidence is offered. These are legitimate and legal questions subject to discussion. There are no logical paradoxes involved here. 
  • Reply 18 of 18
    dysamoria said:
    frantisek said:
    My experience with Snapchat is just short but o am surprised it’s allowed on AppStore. It’s just social network for PornHub and transgender girls selling their nudes.
    1. I see countless examples of Snapchat usage that’s not porn. Maybe you’re only familiar with the porn angle because you’ve seen Snapchat images a lot while browsing for porn, but it’s not remotely “just a social network for pornhub”.

    2. If no one is being harmed, and it’s all consensual, what should anyone care if people use the tool for sexual purposes? Give humans a tool and some of them will use it for sexual purposes. We are sexual beings. Its just what people do. Do you have a problem with human sexuality?
    This is all very off-topic, but my issue with Snapchat is the disappearing messages. What possible reason for this feature to exist could there be other than for kids to hide their conversations from their parents. It's horrible, and for that reason the app should be restricted to adults-only.
    My daughter found out the hard way that with screen shots, things never disappear.
    Her phone has been taken away, as we were naiive in thinking that "good kids don't have to worry about this kind of thing".
    watto_cobra
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