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Snapchat makes users go public with their “best friends”

In the latest update to the photo-messaging app, users' three best friends are readily available with one simple tap.


Fidel Martinez

Internet Culture

Posted on Jun 7, 2013   Updated on Jun 1, 2021, 1:57 pm CDT

On Wednesday, Snapchat—the app of choice for nonsexting Yalies—released an update that expands on a previously available feature that not many users knew about: a list of everyone who you communicate with the most.

Snapchat, which allows users to send pictures and videos that self-destruct after at most 10 seconds, has risen to prominence since it first launched in September 2011. It’s been successful because it gave a individuals a platform that was discreet, private, and removed any potentially incriminating evidence. Or at least, it appeared to do so.

By now, the notion that the pictures or photos you send via Snapchat are deleted forever has been disproven over and over and over and over again.

But if those risque pictures you sent to your hookup buddy weren’t ephemeral after all, at least you could count on the fact that the identities of the people you were Snapchatting with would remain private, right?

Nope, try again.

In fact, thanks to a little-known feature first discovered by BuzzFeed’s Katie Notopoulos back in December 2012, every user has been able to see who their friends’ top three most messaged people were.

“For anyone looking at your Snapchat profile, it’s pretty easy to find out the answer to the inevitable who the fuck is this bitch you’ve been Snapchatting?!? question,” Notopoulos points out. 

“It’s confusing as to why Snapchat would even have a Web presence for user profiles at all—it’s a service that’s made for phone-to-phone private communication.” 

Confusing indeed. But instead of eliminating this breach of trust—and privacy, for that matter—Snapchat doubled down and has made it a prominent feature in the latest version of the app, released Wednesday. All you have to do is tap a friend’s username from your contact list and their leaderboard will come up, including their “three best friends.”

Unsurprisingly, this new development isn’t sitting too well with some Snapchat users.

“This ‘feature’ exposes our closest friends, confidants and, most terrifyingly, our lovers,” developer Etan Zapinksy wrote in a blog post that received a lot of traction on Hacker News.

“We hide secrets with those connections: a forbidden friend, a secret crush, and even an extramarital affair. In the past, these connections have been transient, or at least appeared to us as so, but now with them visible we are vulnerable to others seeing who we truly are.”

In 2009, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt famously said about the expectation of privacy on the Internet, “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” 

Snapchat was supposed to be the perfect way to work around that. 

The Daily Dot has reached out to the company but our request for comment has yet to be returned as of this writing.

Photo via Ryan Nagelmann/Flickr

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*First Published: Jun 7, 2013, 8:47 am CDT