On Tuesday, December 31, an anonymous group of hackers leaked approximately 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers onto the internet.
Snapchat is a free app available for iPhone and Android that allows users to send pictures to friends. These pictures appear for up to 10 seconds and quickly disappear.
In order to connect with your friends, Snapchat offers you the option to sync your phone contacts with its easy to use “Find Friends” feature. The app then alerts you of any friend accounts you may have been unaware of. In short, users give their private contacts to Snapchat and in return are given extra benefits of social media. In the 21st century, the exchange is worth it.
After receiving documentation concerning a possible hack on December 27, Snapchat reassured its users, “Over the past year we’ve implemented various safeguards to make it more difficult to do. We recently added additional counter-measures and continue to make improvements to combat spam and abuse.”
Unfortunately, the “various safeguards” weren’t enough to keep the privacy of its users safe.
The hackers leaked the information of millions of Snapchat users onto the website snapchatDB. Associated with each person’s username were all but the last two digits of their phone number. This hack is a fair warning to the carelessness we often treat our personal information with.
The creators of snapchatDB released a statement explaining the interesting reason behind the hack.
“Our main goal is to raise public awareness on how reckless many internet companies are with user information,” the statement said.
This raises a good point. A lot of us put our entire trust in apps and websites that we know almost nothing about security-wise. As a user of Snapchat, I was only moderately bothered by the hack. The small amounts of personal information I release aren’t as important to me as connecting with friends on social media. According to a post by reachout.com, social media actually has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.
“The internet and social media provide young people with a range of benefits and opportunities to empower themselves in a variety of ways. The communities and social interactions young people form online can be invaluable for bolstering and developing young people’s self-confidence and social skills,” says research.com.
The post goes on to list the different benefits based on larger categories, such as “developing a voice and building trust.” The numerous positives of social media outweigh the few negatives, like potential hacking and fraud.
Because of all of the benefits, myself and other teens willingly release information to social media apps and websites, while still remaining aware of the consequences that could follow, like a potential hack in the system. The hack Snapchat experienced only proved to me how easy it is for others to break into social media apps and websites.
Although there have been multiple accounts of different websites and apps being hacked and exploited throughout the years, my views on social media and technology remain unchanged. Social media is beneficial, no matter the cost. Despite this, I will continue to use my accounts with the knowledge that my personal information is no longer “personal.”