Snapchat is going after Facebook with new tools for developers designed to prevent another Cambridge Analytica from happening

Greg Sandoval/Business InsiderEvan Spiegel answers questions at the 2018 Code conference.
  • Snapchat has opened its platform up to developers for the first time with the release of Snap Kit, tools that let app makers integrate Snapchat features into their own apps.
  • Snap Kit also paves the way for you to log into other apps, like Tinder, with your Snapchat account.
  • Snapchat is emphasising user privacy, and will only allow developers to collect your display name and Bitmoji. That’s a clear counterpoint to Facebook’s more liberal data-sharing policies.

Snap, the company behind Snapchat, introduced on Thursday a long-awaited tool developers have been asking for: Snap Kit, a tool for developers to build apps that integrate with the popular photo messaging app.

But even as Facebook comes under fire for allowing developers what critics say is too much access to user data, Snapchat insists it is putting privacy first and limiting how much data developers can collect.

Snapchat announced the release of Snap Kit, a set of tools that let third party app developers integrate certain Snapchat features into other apps. With Snap Kit, a workout app could let Snapchat users share a sticker with the distance they have run, for example. One of the first announced partnerships will let you log in to Tinder with your Snapchat account, the same way you can with your Facebook credentials.

The company’s biggest competitor, Facebook, has let third party app developers use Facebook in a similar way for many years. So while Facebook is often criticised for copying Snapchat’s best features, this could be seen as a rare instance where things are going the other way.

But there’s a notable difference between the Facebook platform and this new one from Snapchat: privacy. When you log into an app with Snapchat, developers will only get your display name and Bitmoji, a custom graphic that users make to represent themselves. Other data, like your friends list, location, and demographic information, won’t be shared.

To prevent older apps from sucking up data over long periods of time, Snap Kit apps are automatically disconnected from your Snapchat account after 90 days of inactivity.

While the timing of Snapchat’s release and its focus on privacy may appear to be a reaction to the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where user data was improperly used for election ad targeting, Snap insists that it’s been working on Snap Kit for years, and has always held user privacy in mind.

“We definitely followed the Cambridge Analytica scandal really closely and carefully, as we do all such events in this space as they impact us,” Katherine Tassi, Snap’s deputy general counsel, said in an interview with Wired. “But our approach to privacy and our principles are firmly embedded in the way we design products, and the way we’ve been developing this toolkit has had that approach all along.”

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