evergreen.snap Raises Privacy Concerns

By Danny Loose

In September of 2015 a developer called Squid’s Inc. launched an app called “Fleek College Stories” was made available for download acting with a third party app in correspondence with the photo communication app Snapchat. The way it works is that Fleek geotags (establishes metadata to a particular location) a college and sets up an account on Snapchat (our username is “evergreen.snap”) where roughly 75 percent of submitted content is displayed on the account’s Snapchat Story (the app’s public forum), and the full story can be viewed on the app Fleek.

The contents of evergreen.snap are usually pretty innocuous; consisting mostly of pictures of cats, in-class antics, alcohol consumption, butts, and videos of people smoking hash oil while a dubstep song drops in the background. Squid’s Inc. has no other apps in the app store or in development and has no website or means of contacting the company. Fleek seemingly has come out of nowhere.

While watching fellow students drink Malibu out of a funnel and tube is relatively entertaining, documenting illicit behavior on an app that’s geotagged to your college is naïve to say the least. Even though content on Snapchat dissipates after 24 hours does not mean that it is somehow exempt from participating in the security state or exempt from being screenshotted by your peers and used against you.

For example, earlier this month a sophomore (who requested their name be changed to protect their privacy) Alex posted video of their underage alcohol consumption to evergreen.snap and was later confronted by resident advising about the incident, citing the snapchat story as proof of their breach of housing policy. This content was brought to the attention of resident advising by a student taking screenshots of Alex’s drinking along with other students’ illicit behavior taking place on campus housing. Because this was the first instance of illicit behavior brought to the staff’s attention via a student’s documentation of the evergreen.snap story, Alex was told that RAD was “not going to be taking punitive action” and received no grievances.

Alex alleged that since their incident resident advising would begin consistently monitoring the evergreen.snap story to catch more illicit behavior to ensure that students would not be at risk of doing harm to themselves or others.

I spoke with Kelly Lundy, the assistant director for residential life on campus, who dispelled this claim, and assured me that “Resident advising does not actively check social media unless people bring specific instances to our attention.” Lundy also stated that The Evergreen State College was not contacted by Squid’s Inc. to get the permission of the institution to create the account.

Even though resident advising is not actively monitoring the evergreen.snap story or Fleek, your fellow students are, and may be willing to source it in order to penalize you. It should also be noted that the content of evergreen.snap goes through a third party app that does not abide by the same privacy policies as snapchat. Snapchat states that “using a co-branded or third-party-branded service, you may be providing information (including personal information) directly to the third party, us, or both. You acknowledge and agree that we are not responsible for how those third parties collect or use your information.” Fleek does not post their privacy policy in any part of the app, so while Snapchat may not be collecting submitted data, Fleek may be, and we have no way of knowing where it goes or who watches it. To put the lack of secrecy of evergreen.snap into perspective, one picture I saw on Fleek was captioned “I don’t even go to evergreen but i still see y’all titties lol”. Take that as you will.

Part of living in a surveillence state is operating under the assumption of knowing that nothing you release on the internet is ever “safe” or “impermanent.” If you are going to post your illicit behavior on a geotagged snapchat story to your college, you should just assume that there is a highly probable chance that information may be used against you, so if you’re going to do it consider instead just sending it to the people you want to see it rather than broadcasting it on a public forum. At the end of the day, all of this information is either being collected by a suspiciously vacant app developer or the National Security Agency, so choose the content you want to share wisely.