A detailed motherboard report highlights how Snapchat employees have used internal tools to access user data and spy on them. The report is based on the account of two former Snap employees, a current employee, and internal company email.
Several Snap Departments have dedicated tools for accessing stored user guides, their location history, phone numbers, email addresses, and more. The tools are primarily used by Snapchat to meet the demand of police forces. However, these tools have been abused by Snapchat employees to spy on users.
One of the internal tools called SnapLion is used to gather user data in response to a court order or summons. Snapchat's team "Spam and Abuse" also has access to this tool to combat spam and bullying on the platform. Former and current employees, however, revealed that Snapcat's customer management team and even security personnel also have access to the tool.
SnapLion provides "the keys to the kingdom", one of the former employees who described abuse of access to user data said.
Internal email messages have shown that Snapchat employees use SnapLion to find the email address associated with an account without any law enforcement orders being in play. On the plus side, the emails also show the tool used for child abuse investigations.
One of the former employees said that data abuse occurred "sometimes" at Snap. That source and another former employee stated that the assault was by several people. A Snapchat email achieved by the motherboard also shows that employees are broadly discussing the issue of insider threats and access to data, and how to combat them.
In response to the report, a Snap spokesperson said that protecting the privacy of users is important to the company.
Ideally, Snapchat should restrict SnapLion's access to certain employees, but the tool is available throughout the company to all employees. The tool was also used to reset passwords for hacked accounts and other administrative purposes.
Snapchat implemented end-to-end encryption at the beginning of this year.
The report highlights how user data is not safe in the hands of the Company that made the product itself. If you are a heavy Snap user, read the entire report. With end-to-end encryption in place, Snap users should feel a bit more confident about their data.