US regulators have announced a deal with Snapchat to settle a charge that the internet firm misled users into believing images sent over the popular smartphone application disappeared permanently.
Terms of the proposed settlement on Thursday include Snapchat ramping up privacy and security at its popular self-destructing messaging service and having an independent monitor track its efforts for the next 20 years.
The Southern California-based service has gained notoriety for the app that lets people send smartphone photographs or video snippets timed to self-destruct 10 seconds or less after being opened.
Snapchat rocketed to popularity after the initial app was released in September of 2011. Its growth initially sparked fears that, in a world of selfies, it would provide a false sense of security for teenagers thinking of sexting risque photos.
The Federal Trade Commission said it had launched an inquiry into whether Snapchat was not up front about how much data it collected from users, how well it protected them, and whether disappearing messages could be copied or resurrected.
"If a company markets privacy and security as key selling points in pitching its service to consumers, it is critical that it keep those promises," FTC chairwoman Edith Ramirez said in a release.
An FTC complaint charged that Snapchat misled users on a number of fronts, including how "ephemeral" smartphone pictures or video snippets referred to as "snaps" actually were.
Snapchat boasted of letting people send images that "disappear forever" seconds after being viewed by recipients, neglecting to inform users that there are ways people can save pictures indefinitely, according to the FTC.
People who get snaps can use third-party applications to save images, grab screen-shots, or even just take another picture using a camera.