Snapchat’s updated policies hint at bigger search, ad ambitions
Snapchat has updated its policies to clarify the information it collects, suggest a third-party search deal and better deal with the government.
Among the changes, Snapchat has introduced new language that mentions its service potentially containing third-party search results, updated the types of information that it collects from people who use its app or visit its site and tweaked how it refers to the products people can purchase through Snapchat. A Snapchat spokesperson declined to comment on the changes.
To identify the changes, Marketing Land used the the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine to pull up the most recent versions of Snapchat’s terms of service and privacy policies before Tuesday’s update. Each of those documents was last updated on October 28, 2015. Then we used DiffChecker to compare the old and new versions in order to identify the changes.
Third-party search results
Updates about the info it collects
Search queries submitted: Snapchat keeps track of the searches people conduct in its app. Again, Snapchat was probably doing this before but for some reason didn’t feel like it needed to be explicit about it until now. Why would that be? Snapchat’s search product is pretty basic; it only appears when looking for accounts to follow. Maybe Snapchat plans to start using that information more, such as by improving its results for those searches. Or maybe Snapchat is planning to ramp up its search product, perhaps by working with other companies.
Pages visited after checking out Snapchat’s site: Snapchat had already said it tracks the pages someone checked out before visiting its site, but now it says it tracks the pages visited afterward. That’s not unreasonable for any site — and again, Snapchat may simply be spelling out now something it already did — but until recently Snapchat’s wasn’t much of a site. Prior to late February, Snapchat’s site was really only a place to read its company blog and policy documents or link to an app store to download its app. But last month, Snapchat put its Academy Award Live Story on its site for anyone to see, including people without a Snapchat account. If Snapchat wants to make its site more in line with its app — such as by posting Live Stories there more regularly including ad-supported ones or letting people check out ad-supported or commerce-enabled Discover channels — then it might also want to be able to track if people navigate from that content to an advertiser’s or publisher’s site in order to get credit for that traffic.
Not just any products, virtual products
Last year Snapchat started letting people buy lenses, or filters, that they could apply to the photos and videos they post in the app. It eventually killed that product, but not its e-commerce ambitions. In February, Snapchat board member and Cosmopolitan editor-in-chief Joanna Coles indicated that publishers will be able to sell products through their Discover channels. Conceivably that would include physical products, as opposed to the virtual products Snapchat has already sold. So maybe this is just an example of Snapchat tightening the language in its legal documents. Or maybe Snapchat tweaked its terms to specify only virtual products in anticipation of adding a separate section to cover non-virtual products whenever it starts letting companies peddle them through its app.
Cookies can be confusing. So Snapchat has created a new document dedicated to delving into what cookies and other trackers are and how Snapchat uses them. There’s nothing eye-opening for anyone deep in the digital advertising space, but any Snapchat users who, for whatever reason, may stumble upon these legal documents may be unaware of the ways Snapchat can track what they’re up to and how they can opt out of that tracking.
Only one way to terminate the terms
Prior to Tuesday, Snapchat’s terms said that you could terminate your agreement with the company over how you can use its app by simply deleting it from your phone. But Snapchat didn’t have a way to know that you deleted the app, so attempting to terminate the agreement that way wouldn’t necessarily work. Now, Snapchat is clearing things up: If you want to terminate the terms of service, you have to delete your account.
Terms tailor-made for the government
Snapchat has created an amendment to terms of service specifically aimed at people using Snapchat “on behalf of an entity of the US Government.” Snapchat’s new terms of service don’t detail or link to those amended terms, so it’s unclear what exactly they entail. Considering that Snapchat backed Apple in the hardware giant’s recent fight with the FBI over accessing the San Bernardino terrorist’s iPhone, this might seem Snapchat giving a Dikembe Mutombo finger wag to the government, but it might instead be standardizing its policy for dealing with requests from the government. Google and Facebook, for example, include similar amendments to the terms for their products.
Update: Since this article published, the headline has been changed to better highlight the search and advertising portion of Snapchat’s policy changes, as has the order of the article’s contents. None of the content from the original version of the article has been removed.
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