Snapchat users looking to recover lost account data — or view what data the company saves on its servers — can download all the data associated with their account via the company’s website. There are a few reasons someone might want to see this information, from practical needs to privacy concerns. Messages, photos, and videos delete after a set period of time by default on the social media platform, from after the message is viewed to 24 hours after the message is sent. Although it is possible to ensure that chats never delete in the application’s settings menu, people tend to use Snapchat for its perceived privacy. In actuality, users will find that a lot of this data is stored on the company’s servers and can be downloaded.
Social media platforms like Snapchat earn revenue largely through advertisements, and an evolving trend in the industry is a shift toward targeted advertisements. Though it is possible for these sites to use other means — such as a subscription model — advertisements are a primary source of earned revenue. To make more money through these advertisements, some platforms take user data and apply the findings to advertisements in targeted ad campaigns. Some people have concerns over this method of advertising, and wish to protect their data from tech companies. Although it is not possible to explicitly delete specific types of data collected by Snapchat, viewing the data that has been collected can help users make an informed decision about whether to keep using the platform.
Some user data can be viewed directly within the Snapchat app — as the company is quick to point out in its support page — but this likely isn’t the type of data users are looking to find. Within the app, Snapchat users can view and modify their name, email address, phone number, and Bitmoji. To access more comprehensive account data, open the Snapchat app and click on the user’s Bitmoji at the top left corner of the camera screen. Then, tap the gear icon at the top right of the new page opened. Scroll down to the ‘Account Actions‘ button and tap on it. This will open the Snapchat accounts website where users will need to log in to complete the process.
After logging in to the Snapchat accounts website, users will have full access to all of the information that can be viewed or changed concerning their Snapchat account. To download a file containing all of the company’s collected data, tap on ‘My Data.’ Then, click on ‘Submit Request‘ and enter a valid email address at the bottom of the webpage. The download is not instantaneous, and may take hours before being sent to the email address provided. When the download is ready, it will be sent as a .zip file that will need to be unzipped before opening. On a Mac, unzipping a file is as simple as double-clicking the file’s icon. Windows users can right click the file’s icon and select the extract option in the floating menu. Unzipping a file on mobile devices — such as iPhone or Android phones — is possible, but usually requires the use of third-party applications.
There is a ton of data included in a user’s account file, and the amount of data will increase the longer a Snapchat account is used. However, the company says that it stores different kinds of data for set periods of time, so mileage may vary. Some of the data that can be provided includes login and account information, a list of added friends, location history, memories, search history, and a user’s Bitmoji. The chat history for an account can also be viewed, but specific messages may only be seen if they have been previously saved. Though it may be concerning that the platform collects this much data, it’s nice to know that it can be viewed and downloaded by a Snapchat user at any time.