Snapchat Disables 3rd Party Apps in Effort to Improve Security

Snapchat is working to create a "culture of security" which includes users only accessing the service through the official Snapchat app. No third party apps allowed.

Third party apps have been having a hard time lately as more networks close down adjacent services, or lock out competitors. Twitter revoked API access for Meerkat, likely because it wanted to preference its own streaming service; Periscope. Now Snapchat has started to revoke access for third party services, primarily to contain the content on its network.

Third party services have caused big headaches for Snapchat. A leak of saved snaps from a third party app sparked outrage and an FTC investigation. In an interview with Backchannel, Snapchat’s staff members discussed the exclusion from here on of all third party services.

According to Snapchat VP of Engineering Tim Sehn, almost every security issue he’s seen has been a result of API abuse. So the company has taken measures to lock out those allegedly using the API to send spam, or to save snaps. Snapchat is working with Google and Apple to block apps that violate the ToS from the app store.

For repeat violators, the company is offering a warning but is willing to lock users out of accounts when warnings go unheeded. Additionally, users must update their apps to the latest version to use Snapchat, so they can’t continue to use a previous version of the app that is still compatible with a third party service.

Sehn noted:

We never wanted third-party apps on our platform. We have created a product where it is more critically important than ever before that we control the end user experience. We’ve made commitments to our users.

Snapchat is also released its first transparency report, and is expanding its bug bounty program to seal up security holes. Indeed, Jad Boutros, director of information security, has been working to create a “culture of security” since he joined the Snapchat team a year ago.

As part of this culture evolution, the staff members and founders own up to the mistakes Snapchat made in the past, and vow that the service will improve the security and privacy of the service for users.

Transparency reports, and closing out third party services are traditionally the hallmarks of larger companies. The company is maturing and wants to align its practices and protections with other larger networks. Snapchat isn’t really a startup anymore, so it doesn’t want to keep operating like one.