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The Snappening - British teenagers need our help today!

13 October 2014 | 10:38 am

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The security breach of Snapchat dominated the news over the weekend.  The release of over 100,000 videos and pictures would be shocking enough if it was wasn't for the fact that the social media platform is the popular hang out of young teens.

The platform is famed for its 10 second ‘deleting’ content.  When it was launched it was hailed as the solution for safeguarding reputation. Perfect for teens who didn't want parents to find out and job seekers who didn't want recruiters to see, as well as an array of people who just wanted to live in the moment rather than regret their content choices decades from now. How can content damage you if it’s not there anymore? Right?

WRONG! What has transpired is that the content IS still there, as the posts by the hackers over the weekend proved. The raft of content posted has demonstrated that many were lulled into a false sense of security resulting in even greater reputational damaging content being posted, including nudity and porn.

Snapchat, which is now the third most popular social media platform Stateside (after Facebook and Instagram) has denied that the breach was linked to them directly, instead pointing the finger to the platform users themselves (our teenagers), blaming them for using third party apps which they point out is prohibited in their terms.  The issue of blame is being heavily disputed and we will no doubt watch the dialogue unfold over the next few weeks.

In August, Snapchat released a blog statement entitled ‘Our agreement with the Maryland Attorney General’ which will no doubt serve to underpin their position today.

In their blog statement they say:

 “From day one, we have promised our users that we delete their Snaps from our servers once they’ve been viewed by all recipients. That’s a promise we’ve always honored, and it’s one that neither the FTC nor the Maryland AG has ever questioned.

Instead, both agencies thought our users might not have fully appreciated the extent to which their Snaps could be saved by recipients, whether by taking a screenshot or using some other mechanism. Whatever the merit of that concern, it’s one that is old news by now. As we explained when we entered into our agreement, we long since revised our privacy policy and other public statements to make perfectly clear that—while Snapchat deletes all viewed Snaps from its servers—recipients can always save them.

Whilst the words ‘old news’ couldn’t be further from the truth as things stand today, perhaps the bit of the statement that makes the most difficult reading is the bit where they say that they made it ‘perfectly clear’ to their users.  The site is most popular with teens, some of whom will be more worldly wise than others. All the policies and privacy statements in the world are unlikely to hit home with a thirteen year old whose classmates have connected with them on a social platform.

Just a few weeks ago the world was faced with a similar scenario of the celebrity leaks of photographs from the iCloud hack. At conferences and events we have attended since, we have heard a range of opinions and many seem to default to the view that as celebrities (and in most cases grown ups) they should have know better in terms of the content posted.

But the response to what Business Insider is calling ‘The Snappening’ appears to be much more unpalatable. Why? Because we are dealing with teens, still in the throws of finding out who they are and what they represent.  With awareness of child protection issues at the forefront of British Psyche it feels so wrong that the world has been powerless to stop these leaks online, leaving our kids vulnerable to bullying, blackmail and emotional crisis.

Some will say that the digital native generation should have known better, with this hack coming hot on the heels of a Snapchat security breach late 2013 which effected over 4.6 million users.   Yes, perhaps our teens should have learnt their lesson then but then there is also the view that post security breach things should have got better, stronger and safer.

Well there are certainly many lessons to be learnt and no doubt we will continue to debate these for many months, if not years to come.

But the important thing right now is that our young people get the support that they need to deal with this. They aren’t celebrities and they don’t have a team of PRs to smooth the edges and make sure everything turns out ok reputationally for the future.

What support do our parents and teachers have today as the turmoil unfolds?

We must support our teens and those who are custodians and educators of them. We must find those who embrace the technology the way teens do and are able to speak their language. This is the only way we can start to have an honest discussion with teenagers about the risks of social media and safe practices to help them navigate their future.

Michelle Leavesley


Marketing Director CrowdControlHQ

Lecturer Birmingham Business School 


Has the Snapchat breach impacted on your teenagers? Got questions? Please feel free to get in touch and we will gladly help where we can.

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