Jan 28, 2021 - Technology

Exclusive: Snapchat launches new digital literacy program


Snapchat on Thursday unveiled a new digital literacy program aimed at educating its users about issues like data privacy and security.

Why it matters: Snapchat intends to help its young-skewing user base understand the risks associated with navigating an under-regulated web.

Details: In time for Data Privacy Day — an international day of awareness held on Jan. 28 for more than a decade — the company has created a new channel on its curated content section, Discover, called “Safety Snapshot."

  • The section, which is being curated and produced in partnership with outside experts, includes content about safety and privacy. Each month, the channel will provide users with tips about how to protect themselves online.
  • The first episode, which debuted Thursday morning, walks users through ways to better protect their accounts by verifying their email and phone number.
  • Future episodes will focus on Snapchat’s privacy settings, like turning on two-factor authentication setting strong passwords to protect against phishing. 
  • Snapchat has also launched a new filter in partnership with the Future of Privacy Forum (FPF), a privacy advocacy group, which includes a swipe-up link to more privacy resources on their website.

What they're saying: "Since the first Data Privacy Day in 2007, personal information has become an increasingly important part of online services; this has focused attention on meaningful privacy safeguards that can help secure data and ensure that private information is used to help — not harm — individuals," says FPF vice president of policy John Verdi.

The big picture: Snapchat has been able to avoid most of the regulatory and industry pressure around privacy, in part due to the way it's been engineered and structured.

  • The app prioritizes private, individual conversations and does not include a public news feed. Most of Snapchat's features are set to private by default.
  • The company pioneered the idea of ephemerality among social platforms, having content automatically disappear 24 hours after being posted. Chat messages delete by default.

The company has ramped up in-app education efforts around privacy, sending out mass chats to users reminding them to turn on two-factor authentication and to check their privacy settings via Snapchat's Privacy Center.

  • Snapchat uses a privacy-by-design approach to develop new features and products. It brings in privacy lawyers to review product development to new products are privacy compliant.

Be smart: Privacy on social media has become a bigger conversation in recent years, following a series of high-profile hacks and account security issues on other big social media platforms.

  • While Snapchat hasn't suffered any major privacy or security breaches, advocates pay close attention to the platform because it mostly services younger users.

What's next: Snapchat says it will build on this initiative throughout the year.

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