Who Can View My Snaps and Stories

Two questions we get a lot are “do you keep all of the Snaps?” and “do you look at them?” An earlier blog post detailed how Snaps are stored and when they are deleted, so now with the introduction of Stories, we’d like to share a bit about access.


As mentioned in our previous blog post, Snaps are deleted from our servers after they are opened by their recipients. So what happens to them before they are opened? Most of Snapchat’s infrastructure is hosted on Google’s cloud computing service, App Engine. Most of our data, including unopened Snaps, are kept in App Engine’s datastore until they are deleted.


Is Snapchat capable of retrieving unopened Snaps from the datastore? Yes—if we couldn’t retrieve Snaps from the datastore, we wouldn’t be able to deliver them to their recipients desired by the sender. Do we manually retrieve and look at Snaps under ordinary circumstances? No. The ordinary process of sending Snaps to their recipient(s) is automated.

So what is a circumstance when we might manually retrieve a Snap, assuming it is still unopened? For example, there are times when we, like other electronic communication service providers, are permitted and sometimes compelled by law to access and disclose information. For example, if we receive a search warrant from law enforcement for the contents of Snaps and those Snaps are still on our servers, a federal law called the Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) obliges us to produce the Snaps to the requesting law enforcement agency. For more information, see the section of our Privacy Policy that discusses circumstances when we may disclose information.

Since May 2013, about a dozen of the search warrants we’ve received have resulted in us producing unopened Snaps to law enforcement. That’s out of 350 million Snaps sent every day. 

Law enforcement requests sometimes require us to preserve Snaps for a time, like when law enforcement is determining whether to issue a search warrant for Snaps.

Only two people in the company currently have access to the tool used for manually retrieving unopened Snaps, our co-founder and CTO, Bobby (who coded it), and me.

Okay, so what about Stories?

The biggest difference between Stories and Snaps is that unless deleted by the user, Stories are available for 24 hours and can be viewed repeatedly in that time. Unlike unopened Snaps, which are stored until viewed or for 30 days if not opened, Snaps that have been added to your Stories are deleted from our servers after 24 hours. Stories are subject to the same legal requirements for access and disclosure as described above for Snaps.

Community Guidelines

Our Terms of Use and Community Guidelines let you know the rules for using Snapchat. If we receive a report that a user is breaking the rules, we may review the Story they’ve posted and take appropriate action. This may include deleting a Story, showing a warning on an account, or even terminating an account.

Our Privacy Policy contains more information about our practices. We hope this post has given you a better sense of how we operate. We are constantly amazed by your creativity and enthusiasm. Thank you for building such an awesome community.

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