What Does Snapchat Know About Me?

Photograph editing snapchat filters

Snapchat was created with the purpose of bringing the immediacy of a face-to-face conversation to social media. Stories that take place on the app only live for a short period of time. This makes it is easy to believe that Snapchat collects or stores very little of your information. It is surprising to learn that Snapchat knows a great deal about your interests. A recent update to the service collects data that concerns many privacy experts as well. Find out what Snapchat actually knows about you!

What Types of Information Does Snapchat Collect?

In today’s technology, any service you sign up for will require some personal information to create an account. This may include your email address, your phone number, and your date of birth. Although this seems harmless, when combined with information from other sources, these can reveal quite a lot about who you are.

Snaps sent through Snapchat are collected by the company as well. Snapchat also collects chats with friends through the app. While these disappear from the site, the company does have access to them before their deletion. The person you send a message to may have a way outside the app to save a copy. In those cases, your information may or may not be secure and is outside your control.

What Information Does Snapchat Collect Involuntarily?

Snapchat also collects information behind the scenes. For instance, they register how often you use the app and who you text. Furthermore, Snapchat knows how often you text each friend. It knows how long it typically takes you to open a message from each friend, and more. Snapchat even monitors which filters you prefer and which Stories you watch on Discover.

The social network also collects information about your device including what kind of phone you have and the operating system it runs on. Snapchat tracks the mobile carrier providing your cell service. The app collects information from your phone’s sensors including your gyroscopes, and compasses. The app monitors your microphones and whether you have headphones connected.

Snapchat also collects information about your location. It monitors whether your device is in motion and in what direction. It also tracks location information through your device. This occurs whether or not you give it permission to use your location settings to share location with friends. Through nearby mobile towers and Wi-Fi, Snapchat can narrow down your location with reasonable accuracy.

What Information Does Snapchat Collect About Me from Other Sources?

Snapchat does not only rely on your use of the app to get information about you. The company also collects information from advertisers and other third parties. This is used to build a more complete profile of your interests. When you share information with an advertising partner of Snapchat, the company compiles that information with what it already knows. If you install a new app or game from a company that advertises with Snapchat, the company will collect that information. This helps them determine if Snapchat showed you and ad for the product. This feedback makes advertising with Snapchat more valuable.

Anytime you interact with an advertiser on Snapchat, the company is informed of that interaction to better target their ads. This also helps Snapchat improve its measurements of how well advertising through their app works. This makes it easier for other businesses to calculate the expected return for their ad dollars.

Even if you do not use Snapchat, if a friend allows Snapchat access to their phone book to update contacts, Snapchat will collect information about you from your friend’s contacts. This may include personal information including your name, email address, and phone number.

How Does Snapchat Use My Private Information?

One of the main purposes of collecting your information is to provide better targeting for advertisers. Usually, Snapchat and companies like them will phrase this as a benefit to the user. Language such as “personalizing your experience” or “showing you more relevant ads” can often be seen. But it neglects to highlight the fact that the more personalized your profile is, the more advertisers are willing to pay. The ads are more relevant to you because advertisers gained access to private information about you.

Anytime you interact with an advertiser on Snapchat, the company is informed of that interaction to better target their ads. This also helps Snapchat improve its measurements of how well advertising through their app works. This makes it easier for other businesses to calculate the expected return for their ad dollars.

Should I Be Concerned About Snapchat’s New Snap Map Feature?

snapmap imageIn 2017, Snap Chat introduced a feature called Snap Map that is concerning many privacy experts. This feature allows you to share your location with friends through Snapchat. Open the app and you can see animated emojis called Actionmojis of your friends on a map. This allows you to see where they are and what they may be doing now.

When a friend is riding in a car, you may see their Actionmoji in a car on the map. This may not be too disturbing, but the information available from this is extensive.

Location data can be some of the most valuable information to advertisers. You may never consent to giving Snapchat your home address or the name of your employer. With location information, Snapchat gets access to a great deal of your offline life. By tracking your location, Snapchat can identify whether you live in an upper- or middle-class neighborhood. In most companies, the boss parks closer to the door than an entry level employee. By tracking how long you walk after parking at work, Snapchat can guess your position in a company. This can provide an idea of your income range.

Location data can also alert Snapchat to potential new advertising opportunities. Visit a golf shop and Snapchat may alert advertisers you are in the market for some new golf gear. Visit a bike shop and ads for bicycles and accessories may appear in the app. More concerning is that this can reveal even very sensitive health information. Visit a medical specialist for the first time and advertisers may become aware of your health problem. This can reveal information you haven’t even shared with close family members yet.

Can I Protect My Privacy and Still Use Snapchat?

You may be tempted at this point to delete Snapchat, cancel your phone service, and throw your device in the nearest river. It is possible to take some simple measures to safeguard your privacy. You can do this while still having access to Snapchat and the other apps you enjoy using.

Review Snapchat Privacy Settings

First, take a few minutes to walk through the Snapchat Privacy Settings. These allow you to take some control over your information. You can restrict data that is collected through the app and how Snapchat will use it. Ensuring Ghost Mode is engaged will limit the location data accessible to Snapchat. This step alone will give you a great deal more privacy. Keep in mind that even if you choose not to share your location with other Snapchat users, the app still can determine your location.

Use a VPN

Using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the best and easiest ways to safeguard your privacy while online. When using a VPN, you do not connect directly to a website or other online service. Instead you connect to a server in a remote location which forwards your request online. This can help make your activities online much more anonymous, and so protect your privacy. Take a few minutes to learn about how a VPN can restore your privacy.

A VPN can provide other benefits as well. This includes avoiding geographic limitations to streaming video content online. You may also be able to avoid restrictions to internet access at work. Different services provide different benefits, so explore your options before choosing.


We use Snapchat to share precious moments with our friends and family. However, what we often don’t realize is that Snapchat itself also has a lot of information about you. We have seen that that they know more than you might want. For that reason you can adjust your Snapchat privacy setting and use a VPN. Remember that Snapchat certainly isn’t the only app that has immense amounts of your personal information.

Tech journalist
Tove has been working for VPNoverview since 2017 as a journalist covering cybersecurity and privacy developments. Since 2019 she is VPNoverview.com's cybersecurity news coordinator.