In the past few years, Snapchat has become the social media app of choice for the younger set, largely due to its ephemeral content. Users send images and videos (called Snaps) that are meant to be quickly viewed – as they expire soon after being seen – though the app also supports plain-ol’ text chats too.
For a long time, the app was pretty bare-bones, with a very minimal interface and little instruction or help on how to customize your experience or your account. Thankfully, as the app has matured there are now more options to help Snapchat users take control over their security and privacy.
Whether you are an avid user, or yet to send your first Snap, follow our Snapchat guidelines to make sure your account is always private and secure.
1) Keep your Snaps and Stories friends-only
Thankfully Snapchat sets your account options to friends-only by default. This means only people you’ve added as a friend that have added you back can send you Snaps or view your own.
We strongly recommend keeping it that way so you know at all times who is viewing what you create. In other words, don’t change your settings to ‘everyone,’ as that means literally anyone with a Snapchat account can send you messages or see your Stories.
2) If you don’t want it to be permanent, don’t Chat or Snap it
Yes, in theory, your Snapchat content expires after a set time, and Snapchat should also notify you if someone screenshots one of your Snaps or Chats. But don’t let that fool you into complacency – your Snaps can definitely be saved (and shared) for posterity without your knowledge.
There are many tricks and third-party apps out there that work around Snapchat’s notification system, and there’s absolutely nothing to prevent someone from saving a picture by simply pointing another camera at their phone.
What’s more, in 2014, the third-party website SnapSaved was breached, leaking over 200,000 saved Snaps to the world at large in what became known as the “Snappening.” While the Snapchat terms of service forbids use of third-party apps, that doesn’t necessarily actually stop others from using them.
Be careful not to violate other people’s privacy too. Even sending a Snap that you “edit” by adding a doodle or emoji to try to mask someone’s face or details is a bad idea, as these after-photo effects can also be easily removed with third-party apps.
If you take a photo of something you shouldn’t, clever doodles won’t protect you or the person you’re photographing. Snapchat’s content expiration feature often lures users into thinking they can get away with taking photos in places they shouldn’t. However, as model Dani Mathers – who Snapped a fellow gym-goer in the locker room – found out, that’s never a good idea!
3) Create a unique, strong password, and don’t share it
This advice applies for any app or web service, really, but it’s important and worth repeating here too.
Sites and apps do get hacked, and if you use the same password for all your apps, a hacker who breaks in to one service would now have access to everything you use. It’s like giving them the master key to your house and inviting them in to wreak havoc.
Don’t make it that easy for them: use a strong and unique password – and make sure you’re the only one using your account!
Finally, if you see any dodgy behavior from a friend on Snapchat, it’s possible their account has been hacked. Let them know offline that you think their account has been compromised, and tell them to change their password.