Snapchat Inc., which makes an application for sending annotated photos that disappear, apologized for a Dec. 31 data breach after facing criticism.
Snapchat released an update today that lets users opt out of a feature that had a vulnerability, causing data such as phone numbers on 4.6 million users to be exposed last year. Snapchat, which has become popular among teenagers, had been warned about the risk by researchers before the breach occurred.
The Los Angeles-based company has since faced mounting criticism about the incident in the media, including calls for Chief Executive Officer Evan Spiegel to step down.
“We are sorry for any problems this issue may have caused you and we really appreciate your patience and support,” the company said today on its blog.
Snapchat, just two years old, has faced a series of corporate image issues as it gains prominence. Spiegel last year turned down a $3 billion acquisition offer from Facebook Inc. (FB:US), a person familiar with the matter has said, inciting questions about whether Snapchat can reach that value on its own.
Spiegel this week also became embroiled in a back-and-forth over an account in Forbes that he had told Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to visit him in Los Angeles rather than agreeing to meet the CEO of the world’s largest social network in Silicon Valley. After commentators said the account showed Spiegel’s arrogance, he defended himself by posting screen shots of an e-mail conversation with Zuckerberg on Twitter.
Many startups similarly run into image crises. Zuckerberg famously botched an apology in Facebook’s early years, with a 2006 blog post entitled “Calm down. Breathe. We hear you.” in response to user complaints about a new News Feed feature.
Snapchat is making an effort to be taken seriously. Following the data breach, the company hired a lobbyist to educate policy makers about its operations and practices.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah Frier in San Francisco at firstname.lastname@example.org