Snapchat’s New Feature Focuses on Privacy

Just a few weeks ago, during an onstage interview at the Code Conference, Snap CEO Evan Spiegel zinged the blue juggernaut that’s haunted his company with this line: “We would really appreciate it if they copied our data protection practices also.”

Ouch. The dynamic between the two companies, of course, has seen Facebook — after unsuccessfully trying to buy Snap after several attempts — copy and repurpose everything of its smaller rival that it possibly can, like Stories and ridiculous camera lenses. Snap, for its part, has successfully peeled off a younger demographic from Facebook by being everything Facebook is not — like fun and, with Snap’s announcement today of its developer platform, ostensibly more focused on privacy.

The latter, in fact, is one of the key points the company is touting with the launch of its Snap Kit suite of tools for developers.

As part of the new additions, Snap Kit will include the ability to put Bitmoji in apps and to add Snapchat stories to the content of other apps. Pandora, for example, is one of Snap’s initial third-party partners and announced separately how, for example, Pandora listeners will be able to in the coming weeks send favorite songs to friends via a song card or to their Story (Isn’t that cool). When you get one of those sent to you, you can swipe up and listen to the song on Pandora via the integration — for which users also don’t have to connect their Snapchat and Pandora apps.

“We’re always looking for more ways to bring Snapchat into the world and the world into Snapchat,” Snap Inc. vice president of product Jacob Andreou said about the news, which actually preceded a 2.1 percent bump in Pandora’s stock Thursday morning after the announcement.

In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, a privacy-focused service like this should come as welcome news to social media users who now pretty much expect much of their data to be hoovered up in the service of tailoring ads and the like. But while Snap’s pitch here is certainly admirable — the company, for example, says Snap Kit will only share a user’s display name and avatar, no other identifying details — a note of caution is certainly in order.

Or, rather, maybe not caution — more of a Trumpian “We’ll see what happens.”

Snap’s user base has stagnated a bit. Facebook’s missteps, you could argue, have also rattled people into now being circumspect about social media in general, no matter the service.

And then there’s the fact Snap hasn’t necessarily batted a thousand when it comes to privacy. In 2014, the company settled charges with the FTC related to misrepresentation of its data retention. It’s also an understatement to note that Snap is also still figuring out its relationship to publishers. A representative for an unnamed publisher who’s part of Snapchat’s Discover channel told Digiday this week: “They’ve always been good to work with. I think they are just in a more desperate period in their life cycle. As we expand into more lucrative and better monetizable platforms, I think Snapchat will become less and less of a priority.”

Maybe today’s news will help Snap get over the hump and cast a wider net for itself. Maybe not.

This news is probably mostly worth cheering. Facebook’s whole model was built on swallowing as much data, usage, insight, time — everything that it could. There’s a reputational element here for Snap in terms of getting this right. You can’t exactly wag your finger at Facebook and step in the same messes it did.

So, for now, rejoice — more vomiting rainbows are apparently coming to an app near you.

I am a Tech Enthusiast.

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