Is Snapchat encrypted?

Encryption is a hugely valuable tool for anyone looking to hide their browsing habits from snoopers, but it’s become a buzzword in recent years. Plenty of messaging apps use end-to-end encryption as a selling point but undermine their privacy claims by collecting information from your phone or keeping comprehensive records of your activities.

Today, we’ll be examining one of the biggest players in the industry: Snapchat. We’ll dig deep into its privacy policy, data-aggregation practices, and legal history and check whether Snapchat’s encryption is as foolproof as it seems. This way, you’ll better understand how the platform works and how anonymous you really are.

Short version: Snapchat only offers partial protection

Whenever you send an image, Snapchat uses end-to-end encryption to ensure that only you and the intended recipient can see it. Unfortunately, this protection doesn’t extend to text chats; anyone monitoring the network can see exactly what you and your friends are talking about. Additionally, deleted or expired images remain on both users’ devices, making them fairly easy to recover with readily available digital forensics tools.

To ensure your chats and photos remain private, your best bet is to use a Virtual Private Network (VPN). These tools encrypt all of your network traffic, stopping network administrators, public hotspot owners, and the government from seeing what you get up to online. Snapchat itself will still be able to read your communications, but that’s just par for the course with any social media platform. Check out our recommended Snapchat VPNs.


NordVPN is offering a fully-featured risk-free 30-day trial if you sign up at this page. You can use the VPN rated #1 for Snapchat with no restrictions for a month. That’s plenty of time to try it out and see whether it lives up to the hype. 

There are no hidden termsjust contact support within 30 days if you decide NordVPN isn't right for you and you'll get a full refund. Start your NordVPN trial here.

How private is Snapchat, really?

Snapchat talks a good game but it’s far less privacy-conscious than it might seem. For years, it used the same hardcoded encryption key for every user, which allowed hackers to decrypt any image with around a dozen lines of code. Additionally, in 2023, it paid millions to settle a class-action lawsuit that claimed its photo filters were storing users’ biometric information without their consent.

You could argue that these issues are in the past and that the company is still working to improve. That may be true but there’s still significant progress to be made. For instance, your conversations with Snapchat’s My AI chatbot are stored indefinitely unless you go out of your way to delete them. Further, bypassing the feature that alerts you when someone screenshots a photo you’ve sent them remains trivially simple.

Perhaps most damning, Snapchat’s tool that lets you download your data is heavily flawed. It not only includes all of your memories and chat history, but also every saved image from every conversation you’ve had, even if a participant was blocked or deleted their account. This might not sound like a problem but it effectively allows former contacts to access potentially sensitive images long after the relationship has ended.

Why should I care if my Snapchat activities are saved?

People often shut down questions about privacy with the phrase “if you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear”. If that’s true, though, why is a platform with automatically disappearing messages and end-to-end encryption so popular? Snapchat has over 800 million users and they can’t all be criminals – that’s about 10 percent of the world’s population!

The fact is that ephemerality is kind of the whole point of this app. If your messages are easily-intercepted, stored for long periods of time on Snapchat’s servers (up to a year in some cases), and accessible to people you no longer communicate with, then that’s a problem. The last thing we want is for someone to see Snapchat claim “delete is our default” and assume that their communications are completely anonymous and irretrievable.

Snapchat and anonymity: Your questions answered

Is there a Snapchat alternative with full end-to-end encryption?

There are actually plenty of encrypted messaging apps, and some of them have even had their privacy claims tested in court. Signal, for instance, encrypts all of your messages, images, and calls and is entirely open-source, meaning experts can verify that there’s nothing untoward in the code. Looking for something that’s a little more widely-used? In that case, you might want to try WhatsApp – it’s owned by Meta but still encrypts everything, storing only message timestamps and IP addresses (the latter of which can be spoofed using a VPN). Telegram also supports end-to-end encrypted chats.

Can people save my Snaps without me knowing?

Absolutely. If you use your phone’s built-in screenshot tool to make a copy of a photo, Snapchat will display a notification on the sender’s device that says “[Your Snapchat username] took a screenshot!”. There are multiple ways for someone to do this without your knowledge, however. They could use a second camera to take a photo of their phone’s screen, use Android’s screen-recording feature, or simply get Google Assistant to take a screenshot since this doesn’t prompt the alert for some reason.

With no way to prevent people from saving your photos, the best approach is to be mindful about what you share. Think carefully beforehand, don’t feel pressured into sending anything, and if you do, make sure anything that could identify you (such as your face or tattoos) aren’t visible. This isn’t just good for your privacy, it also helps limit the chance of sextortion.

What information does Snapchat collect about me?

Like most social media platforms, Snapchat gathers quite a bit of personal info. Here’s a breakdown of everything it collects so you better understand what you’re getting into before signing up:

  • Registration info (name, username, email address, date of birth, and phone number)
  • Payment details (credit card number and your address)
  • Chat, Story, and video call activity
  • Communications with the support team
  • Responses to surveys or consumer panels

So far, this is fairly standard. However, Snapchat also stores information about how you use its service, including:

  • What you watch, which Lenses you use, and how often you comment
  • Device information (including your operating system, browser, advertising ID, compass and gyroscope activity, installed apps, and your IP address)
  • Log info (such as when you access the service, how often, and which pages you view)
  • Information about your phone contacts and GPS location (if full permissions granted)
  • Info from third-parties. This includes other users, advertisers, and any sites where you’ve linked your Snapchat account