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Snapchat promises not to give away user data as it follows Facebook in connecting to apps

James Titcomb
Snap has shunned third party developers to date - Bloomberg

Snapchat has pledged not to repeat the mistakes of Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal as it moved to improve its service by integrating with external apps for the first time.

Snap Inc, the social media app’s parent company, announced on Thursday that it would allow developers to create apps that link to Snapchat profiles.

For years, apps such as Tinder and Spotify have connected to rival social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, allowing them to easily log in or share information about what songs they listen to.

Snapchat, in comparison, has so far shunned external developers but on Thursday, the company, which prides itself on privacy, said it would allow apps to link to Snapchat accounts.

Users will be able to log in to shopping apps through Snapchat, while connected apps will be able to add special features to Snapchat. Users of a running app, for example, could share the results of their recent workout in a Snapchat message.

The move comes at a sensitive time for relationships between social media companies and so-called third-party apps, after revelations in March that an app connected to Facebook and installed by 310,000 people was able to harvest the private details of 87m users without their knowledge.

At a glance | Snapchat

Snapchat said it would give away only the bare minimum of information to developers, consisting of just their usernames and cartoon profile pictures. Apps will be strictly reviewed, and cut off after 90 days if not used.

The company’s head of product Jacob Andreous indicated that Facebook had traded data for influence over developers.

“What these companies did was [say] use our login and we’ll give you the entire friend graph. We don’t think [this service] should come at the cost of having to hand off data,” he said. “[Our service] doesn’t give off nearly the amount of information offered by those services.”

Mr Andreou said the company had a “privacy-centric mindset”.

Katherine Tassi, Snap’s deputy general counsel for privacy, said, “It’s not about sharing Snapchat data, as a lot of other [similar services] are.”

Other integrations between Snapchat and third-party apps include a way to send Bitmoji cartoons directly from the other apps, and allowing third-party services to search and integrate Snapchat stories within their own apps. For example a mapping app might want to include stories posted at a certain location.

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