Snapchat hires lobbyists for the first time

The social network Snapchat has hired lobbyists in Washington for the first time.

Snapchat, which allows users to send photos and videos that disappear after a certain amount of time, has signed up with the powerhouse K Street firm Heather Podesta + Partners, according to a lobbying disclosure form filed Jan. 1.

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The lobbying firm will work on communications, computers and consumer protection issues for Snapchat, and “educating policymakers regarding the application's operation and practice,” according to the form.

The lobbyists on the account include Heather Podesta, once counsel to the late Rep. Bob Matsui (D-Calif.), Eric Rosen, former counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Benjamin Klein, once legislative director for ex-Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.).

Snapchat is hiring lobbyists in the wake of a data breach that exposed millions of users’ information and prompted calls for a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigation.

The group claiming responsibility for the hack told technology blog TechCrunch that they acted “to raise the public awareness around the issue, and also put public pressure on Snapchat to get this exploit fixed.”

“It is understandable that tech startups have limited resources but security and privacy should not be a secondary goal. Security matters as much as user experience does.”

In a blog post, Snapchat responded to criticisms of its security, saying that the company has “recently added additional counter-measures and continue to make improvements to combat spam and abuse.”

Snapchat also received attention this past May when a digital privacy group called on the FTC to investigate the company for keeping user’s photos and videos despite promising to delete them.

“The images that Snapchat says are deleted are in fact stored on Snapchat users’ phones” using a different file extension, the Electronic Privacy Information Group wrote in its complaint to the FTC.

A user can alter that file extension to view the photos and videos, the group said, quoting a forensic expert who claimed he was “surprised no one else had done it because of how easy it was.”

The privacy group said the agency should investigate and “require Snapchat to improve its data security practices, and specifically to ensure that photos and videos are in fact deleted such that they cannot subsequently be obtained by others.” 

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