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While the masses are deleting Facebook for the way it’s handled the privacy and sanctity of user data, Snapchat appears to be taking an unwelcome page from the latter. In its latest beta, Snapchat is testing a “Connected Apps” feature, which could signal a plan to let third-party apps share Snapchat’s data.
The change would build Snapchat into more of a social ecosystem, a la Facebook or Twitter, but it could open the app to the same sorts of abuses that we’re now dealing with on Facebook.
In the new tab in the app, Mashable reports that the text reads “These apps are connected to your Snapchat account. Choose an app to control what it has access to.” To date, Bitmoji is one of the only third-party apps that connects directly with Snapchat. This integration allows Snapchatters to create those fun, cartoony Bitmoji avatars. Shazam also has an integration with Snapchat so users can Shazam straight from the app’s camera screen.
Snapchat doesn’t yet offer an API for third-party apps to connect with the app, but this Connected Apps section suggests the company is working on one. Currently, the app offers an advertising API that lets advertisers buy ads on the platform through third-parties. This doesn’t share any Snapchat user data with other apps or platforms, however, like a Connected Apps API potentially would.
Still, at this point we can only hypothesize how Connected Apps on Snapchat would work. All we know thus far is what’s shown in screen grabs in the beta. We don’t know what information, if any, Snapchat would be sharing with developers. We also don’t know the level of granularity Snapchat users may have in controlling that data—whether you can allow some apps access to your private Snap messages, some to access your friends list, whether they could post on your behalf, use your location, and so on.
With a poorly received app redesign and a flop of a hardware launch last year with Snapchat Spectacles, Snapchat is likely continuing to explore new ways it can make money off users. Sharing or selling data is one of those ways.
Snapchat has thus far declined to comment on the discovery.
Christina Bonnington is a tech reporter who specializes in consumer gadgets, apps, and the trends shaping the technology industry. Her work has also appeared in Gizmodo, Wired, Refinery29, Slate, Bicycling, and Outside Magazine. She is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a background in electrical engineering.