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Snapchat, in settlement with FTC, agrees to increased privacy controls

Snapchat settles with FTC over messaging

Messaging app Snapchat promised users that the photos and videos they send disappear seconds after they’re opened. But security and privacy advocates have repeatedly reported that’s not always true.

On Thursday, the Federal Trade Commission announced that the smartphone app maker has agreed to settle charges alleging that the company had deceived consumers with assurances about the “disappearing nature” of messages sent through the service and other data collection and security practices.

The FTC complaint laid out several ways that photo “snaps” sent through the application could be saved without the users’ knowledge. For example, some third-party apps could be used to capture messages sent through the service, the FTC said, and video messages remained accessible to recipients who connected their smartphone to a computer.

The FTC also alleged the app collected data from users without their consent or knowledge — including geolocation information from those using the Android version of the app and contacts from the address books of those using the Apple iOS version.

Under the terms of its settlement, Snapchat will not be fined. But it will be prohibited from misrepresenting the privacy, security or confidentiality of user data within the app and be required to implement a comprehensive privacy program to be monitored by an independent party over the next 20 years. If Snapchat violates the settlement in the future, it could face financial penalties.

Although the consent decree did not require Snapchat to admit fault, the app maker acknowledged in a statement that it had made mistakes. “While we were focused on building, some things didn’t get the attention they could have,” the statement said, noting that Snapchat should have been “more precise” in how it communicated with users.

— Andrea Peterson

Satellite venture can buy Russian engines

A Boeing-Lockheed Martin venture that launches satellites for the U.S. military won an end to a ban on buying Russian rocket engines when a federal judge said she was satisfied that the purchases don’t violate sanctions on Russia imposed over its annexation of Crimea.

U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Susan Braden lifted the temporary ban Thursday, sidelining an issue raised in an April 28 lawsuit by Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies. The company claimed the Air Force illegally shut the company out of its launch business.

While SpaceX didn’t ask Braden to block purchases of the Russian rockets, its court filings highlighted links between rocket-engine maker NPO Energomash and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who heads the country’s defense and space industries and is subject to U.S. sanctions.

Braden, who brought up the sanctions issue, asked for the opinions of the Treasury, State and Commerce departments regarding the rocket sales. The Treasury Department’s sanctions unit said transactions with NPO Energomash “currently do not directly or indirectly contravene” sanctions against Rogozin.

The Justice Department and the Boeing-Lockheed Martin Corp. joint venture, called United Launch Alliance, asked Braden to lift the injunction.

The information Braden received makes clear that the relationship “complies with the sanctions against Russia,” Jessica Rye, a spokeswoman for ULA, said in an e-mailed statement. Emily Shanklin, a SpaceX spokeswoman, didn’t immediately reply to a request for comment.

— Bloomberg News

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