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Meet the Developers Who Want To Build the Next Snapchat

Unknown Lamer posted about 5 months ago | from the gpg-plus-email dept.

Security 61

Nerval's Lobster writes "Our lives online come with perils, whether from the NSA checking up on our digital communications, or the possibility of the wrong e-message going viral. Twitter, Facebook, Google, Instagram, and other social networks have collected all sorts of personal data about us, where we've been, what we're saying, what we like, and our friends. No wonder the idea of ephemeral messages — such as those sent via Snapchat and other services — is beginning to resonate, attracting lots of startups who want to service that very need. These creators of self-destructing message apps claim they don't care about monetization, and that their products are secure — but as so many apps from other startups have demonstrated, security is often a very porous thing, and government agencies are more than happy to fire off a warrant to see unread messages stored on a server. Lots of developers want to become the Snapchat (if it means they can take a multi-billion-dollar buyout), but in the case of vaporizing messages, they're tiptoeing into tricky territory."

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61 comments

Stupid (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332149)

> No wonder the idea of ephemeral messages ... self-destructing message

The entire concept is stupid. Screenshots. Or use your camera to photograph the screen if you must. Or run it in am emulator and do a screenshot of that.

If you send something to someone, you should assume that they can keep a copy of it. Dont like that? Dont send it.

Re:Stupid (1)

MtHuurne (602934) | about 5 months ago | (#46332225)

Indeed there is no such thing as secure self-destructing messages. What is more interesting is end-to-end encryption, where you can at least ensure that no-one except the recipient can open the message.

Re:Stupid (1)

locofungus (179280) | about 5 months ago | (#46332251)

If you deliver direct to MX and have TLS setup on both ends then you get this encryption for free.

There are active attacks (MITM) against most setups but passive snooping is prevented.

Re:Stupid (2)

madbrain (11432) | about 5 months ago | (#46332359)

That is not end to end encryption. You would need S/MIME, PGP, or other technologies for that, where the message itself is encrypted.
The fact that the transport may be encrypted is pretty much irrelevant since neither the sender nor recipient have full control over the network hops that may be between them. If you send a message to a TLS-enabled host, and it then gets remailed using plaintext, or the recipient downloads it using plaintext, the TLS is not very useful.

Re:Stupid (2)

locofungus (179280) | about 5 months ago | (#46332411)

And if the recipient forwards it unencrypted then S/MIME or PGP are not very useful.

I was envisioning each person running their own mailserver (as I do) so that the only place mail would be unencrypted would be on their local machine.

Once you're in that position everything gets encrypted and it's invisible to the end user.

Re:Stupid (1)

Chrisq (894406) | about 5 months ago | (#46332413)

Indeed there is no such thing as secure self-destructing messages.

I think the "mission impossible"tape recorder that catches fire comes close ... Apple have been doing their best to implement this [google.co.uk] .

Re:Stupid (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 5 months ago | (#46332761)

Cut the headphone cord, splice to microphone input on a walkman and hit record?

It was really not very secure at all, and an auto-destruct is a poor system compared to having an agent verify the message was securely destroyed.

Re:Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332899)

Or just record it on a video camera... just like they did on the original TV series. Even the original was already broken.

Re: Stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46337153)

Easily countered with a self destructing camera.

It's self destructing things all the way down.

Re:Stupid (1)

tomhath (637240) | about 5 months ago | (#46332745)

where you can at least ensure that no-one except the recipient can open the message

Yea, we could call it the Enigma machine. Oh wait...

Re:Stupid (1)

mwvdlee (775178) | about 5 months ago | (#46332237)

If you want absolute 100% guarenteed secrecy, you're not going to be able to do it with any technology.

If you just want to prevent companies and government organisations from accessing your private life, ephemeral messages are a notable part of a larger package of security measures you can use.

Re:Stupid (1)

C18H27NO3 (1282172) | about 5 months ago | (#46332329)

The entire concept is stupid. Screenshots.

Exactly. The same could be said in regards to private Facebook profiles.
Nothing stops someone that is part of the private group to make available anything that they see to others not in the group. eg., Save the page, the text, pictures, screenshot it, etc.

That's not the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332331)

The point is to have automatically self destroying communication, that in a normal use case doesn't stay anywhere to linger around. Pretty much like normal telephone conversation, yes, the other end may record it, yes the goverment may record it, but if they don't do it while it happens they can't get it half a year later when they for some reason develop in interest for you. The idea is not bad. You could even let the receiver tag some messages as "keep 24h" or "keep forever", as long as the default case is "gone in sixty seconds", or when you stop reading it.

Re:That's not the point (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46343015)

+100

Re:Stupid (1)

mlts (1038732) | about 5 months ago | (#46334263)

There are two parts to self-destructing messages:

1: The part where it gets eradicated from servers.
2: The part where it gets zapped from endpoints.

Part 2 falls under DRM... someone, somewhere will find a way around it [1]. The best way to handle this is similar to PGP's -p flag -- have a private viewer to let the user know this shouldn't be copied, and stop right there. A determined user will find a way to keep track of something, no matter what anti-copy measures are in place.

Now, part 1 is the part that actually matters. There was a proposed expiration algorithm that used a peer to peer setup where when keys expired, they expired on all the peers. That way, not just one system compromised would get an expired key back. If the key was not expired, the peers would hand over the pieces.

Of course, this is easily attacked by having a lot of bogus peers in the mix who will not expire keys. However, as all security measures, the perfect is the enemy of the good, and this is a step up.

[1]: Barring something expensive like high def satellite encryption which has yet to have a meaningful crack.

Re:Stupid (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | about 5 months ago | (#46335687)

The entire concept is stupid. Screenshots. Or use your camera to photograph the screen if you must. Or run it in am emulator and do a screenshot of that.

If you send something to someone, you should assume that they can keep a copy of it. Dont like that? Dont send it.

Exactly. Though, SnapChat does try to detect attempts to take screen shots which it then notifies the sender that you've done so. Of course, this can easily fail (it does under iOS7 because of changes deep in the OS).

Re:Stupid (1)

Darinbob (1142669) | about 5 months ago | (#46338037)

I think it is stupid, and not stupid too. The idea of having a discussion that is not recorded for posterity is useful. I remember back in Usenet when I discovered that everything I wrote was being archived and was easily searchable, it was disconcerting to think that off-the-cuff remarks from several years back were still there. Granted I will never be running for political office but it has some creepiness to think about it. On the other hand, it has made me think twice about things (maybe not think enough to remove typos before hitting send of course).

I do find it odd however that this is being done for pictures, and why it became so popular so fast. Is it for porn and sexting, or do people really use that tool when they take pictures of their food? (I have no idea why people take pictures of food, but it also seems popular for some reason)

Re:Stupid (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 5 months ago | (#46339199)

I'll just take a screenshot with my camera then.

alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46336913)

No wonder the idea of ephemeral messages ... self-destructing message

The entire concept is stupid. Screenshots. Or use your camera to photograph the screen if you must. Or run it in am emulator and do a screenshot of that.

If you send something to someone, you should assume that they can keep a copy of it. Dont like that? Dont send it.

Or to put it another way, this illusion of privacy simply doesn't exist. Seeing how many security researchers and other "tech pros" have come out and shown besides being able to copy the file, if your the receiver, you can tear it apart and still can access to it.

Not Stupid (1)

psithurism (1642461) | about 5 months ago | (#46350153)

The entire concept is stupid

I disagree. This concept is extremely important to me. Just because an idea is stupid to you and 5mods does not mean it doesn't work for the rest of us.

To me, the ephemeral message is getting us back towards normal face2face interaction, by default, nothing is saved. There is nothing stopping your friends and co-workers from putting their phones on record or even following you around with a video camera. What's important is that by default, our failed jokes and Freudian slips are simply forgotten, instead of being added to your permanent record that a potential employer, divorce lawyer or even automated government spy tool might get access to for your detriment.

Why? (5, Insightful)

rebelwarlock (1319465) | about 5 months ago | (#46332153)

Let's reword the headline to say what was really meant:

Attention whoring for an unoriginal idea.

Re:Why? (1)

Rhaban (987410) | about 5 months ago | (#46332325)

If your tech idea is "Be the next [whatever]", it is not a good idea.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332475)

If your tech idea is "Be the next [whatever]", it is not a good idea.

It is, if the last four pointless pieces of shit software that should have made zero profit returned millions. Now put down your damn Flappy Bird for a minute and pay attention.

I don't know why we're even having this conversation, as if people (developers included) should really be all that worried about security or integrity in the next "self-destructing" app. Obviously with the vulnerabilities revealed in "secure" apps, users don't give a shit even if they are eventually hacked. That's obvious, because they keep using them. So why the hell are we really all that worried about security and integrity, even where we should be?

"Self-destructing" apps are stupid not because they eventually get cracked like an egg, with the most tasty info pouring out, but because users don't give a shit even when that does happen. They simply don't care. Those users who DO care (5 - 10%) are using real encryption at multiple layers with proven products, and are not relying on "be the next" to protect them.

And if you're trying to create software that will circumvent US intelligence altogether, well good luck with that shit. You've got a better chance of writing an unhackable one.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332717)

It is, if the last four pointless pieces of shit software that should have made zero profit returned millions. Now put down your damn Flappy Bird for a minute and pay attention.

Lottery tickets can also return millions. That doesn't make them a good investment. For every four apps that made a dollar, there are forty thousand that never even made it to market. If you don't have an original idea--if you just want to be the next X--you are starting with such a huge handicap that you are better off just buying a lottery ticket.

FYI, Flappy Bird wasn't written as a commercial project. The guy just wanted to learn.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46339119)

i've been telling linus torvalds that for years. what a moron.

you're an idiot.

and then what? (1)

goombah99 (560566) | about 5 months ago | (#46332515)

Let's reword the headline to say what was really meant:
Attention whoring for an unoriginal idea.

Okay so they build the next snap chat. What do they do the next month? Is there anything in snap chat that could not be built in 1 month by a small team? Same thing with instagram or whatsapp. What is special about those apps is simple they were there before someone else thought to do them, and the implementations were good enough to entice people to use it. Making another one? sure not a problem. But without any market share how are you going to pay the lawyers.

Re:Why? (1)

argStyopa (232550) | about 5 months ago | (#46332733)

Honestly, the idea is *so* unoriginal, I have to wonder if it's not a government troll.
I mean, by this time security and privacy is so totally compromised at every level (from the device in your hand to the routers it passes through) that the very concept of someone insisting "oh, really, but OURS will be secure" sounds like an NSA project.

Re:Why? (1)

sootman (158191) | about 5 months ago | (#46334017)

It's attention whores all the way down!

If you're worried about something you say leaking online, keep your fucking mouth shut.

I can't wait (2)

AlphaBro (2809233) | about 5 months ago | (#46332157)

I can't wait for the social media bubble to pop.

Re:I can't wait (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332507)

I can't wait for the social media bubble to pop.

Isn't it ironic the disdain this particular profit model has brought upon society?

Ahh, it seems like only yesterday when we were hearing them pitch vaporware to take us to the next millennium, and we all wanted to ride the dot-com wave forever.

I miss the days when we would only have to deal with app hype instead of someone actually writing the piece of shit, profiting millions, and taking all our free time and privacy with it.

Actually, I don't mind someone profiting millions. After all, that model keeps going, and I may have to get out my turd polish and compiler, and work on an early retirement plan.

Misread (1)

Optimal Cynic (2886377) | about 5 months ago | (#46332163)

I misread the first sentence as "Our lives online come with penis", which given that they're talking about snapchat would have made more sense.

Re:Misread (1)

EvilIdler (21087) | about 5 months ago | (#46332371)

I misread the title. Thought it said "Slashdot", not "Snapchat". Not sure which misreading was worst :/

Wickr and Telegram (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332199)

Wickr is pretty interesting: (based on their claims) nothing or very little is stored on the servers, and everything that is stored on the clients is encrypted. There is no possibility of recovery if you lose your passwords.
Telegram has a more "traditional" design, but it has also a client-to-client mode that claims to leave no trace on servers.
A big difference: Wickr is closed source but free to use, Telegram is a more open design with broader support and many different clients, web and desktop. Wickr is available for Android and iPhone and that's it.
Also, Telegram has cute graphics while Wickr looks terrible.

Re:Wickr and Telegram (1)

Stalks (802193) | about 5 months ago | (#46332439)

I just recenetly tried out Telegram and it looks very promising. It needs video compression so sending videos doesn't upload 2GB of data. I love being able to pick up my messages on every device, that is awesome.

If it gets popular, I don't see how its going to stay free though, we'll see.

Re:Wickr and Telegram (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 5 months ago | (#46332635)

and of course, telegram already does self-destructing messages.

At least they have video support, last I saw they didn't have it at all.

But.. the big one, to be successful they need to remove the requirement to have your phone number as your ID. The reason Whatsapp was bought out was not for the users but their data - and having everyone and their contacts phone numbers is a really valuable key for tying social crap to real people.

Wrong approach (1)

barcarolle (581253) | about 5 months ago | (#46332201)

The problem with all of these kinds of things is that they're aiming to replace fundamental parts and protocols of the Internet and the Web, but those parts and protocols were not originally developed with a profit motive. No genuine replacement for things like telnet, SMTP, HTTP, IMAP, IRC, FTP, etc. will ever come out of an organization oriented purely towards a profit motive (which all “start-ups” are, just like mature business organizations). For all their huge success, even organizations like Google and Facebook have not been able to do this (no, not even SPDY), so why should a "start-up" be able to? Who, on Earth, would want them to?

Truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332215)

There will always be a "next snapchat" a next facebook, a next myspace, a next IRC channel. Communication via the internet is a near fungible commodity. It's all free, and the only requirement is that the people you want to communicate with be on the same service. Considering that's a cost of a minute at most, once that cost is overcome by... whatever, then it's overcome. The cost that drives people away can be anything. Too many ads, the interface changes too much, insecure communication, anything.

Point is, for pure communication any service isn't far from being replaced. There's always going to be a "next". Go grab skype on your phone, it'll take 4 minutes at most. Or Kick. Or whatever. I'm not sure any will survive to make money unless someone like Microsoft or Facebook is dumb enough to buy you.

No I want to meet interesting people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332231)

I don't want to meet them. I want to meet the investors that are willing to put money on building something useful. Something grand. Something revolutionary. Why do you think we care to meet people who want to build bad popular media to make a quick buck?

Levels of security... (3, Interesting)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#46332247)

Inherent in security is what you are trying to keep something secure from... A child safety lock on a container of pills is an example of this... it keeps the pills out of the reach of small children that lack the strength or mental capacity to open the bottle. Once you get old enough to open the bottle it probably isn't as dangerous because you're probably not stupid enough to eat them like m&ms at that point.

There is security on ATMs and banking systems to keep thieves out internal or external. But they do not secure the system from government oversight or even employees of the bank.

Its about trust and control.

Who do you want kept out? What do you want controlled? Itemize it all. Then design your system.

If you wish to keep the NSA out... you need to decentralize. The NSA thrives on exploiting centralized information systems. Decentralize and they have to compromise a cloud of shifting unreliable systems each with information of no to very limited value. They won't do it. Its too much work for too little return.

If you want to keep some person you sent pictures of your genitals from uploading the information to a public gallery... Well... best option is to not send that message. But if you really feel you must... something like snap chat or similar will work against not terribly bright people. Anyone with a clue shouldn't have any trouble finding a program on the net advertised as being specifically able to scrape messages out of those programs.

So yeah... NSA... decentralize... stop that person from sharing your genital photos around... good luck. Just don't do it, dummy.

Re:Levels of security... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46334237)

Decentralise is right but how to do this with a mobile app? Peer-to-peer doesn't really work without some kind of coordinating central server and then your back to square one aren't you?

Re:Levels of security... (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 5 months ago | (#46339797)

Meshed wireless networks.

Re:Levels of security... (1)

Karmashock (2415832) | about 5 months ago | (#46355789)

Do it the same way DNS works. Publish your location to a shared live database that associates given domain names or users with specific IPs and port numbers.

Then when you need to call someone, your app or whatever checks the database for which IP that name is linked to... and then calls that system directly.

The NSA and government can compromise the list or monitor who calls for specific domains but keep in mind that the list is not in one centralized system but is instead shared around thousands of disconnected systems that the NSA might not have access to... and if you call for a domain name from one of those systems then the NSA knows nothing of the request. Furthermore, if they start poisoning the list you can duplicate the system so there are trusted associations and non-trusted associations.

If you wanted to be ultra secret, you could just take a hint from the deep web and not publish to those systems at all... leaving the task DNS typically does to a more secure system that is more difficult for the NSA to tamper with...

Point being, you can make the system secure. It just requires a few people to get slapped in the face until they've had the pride knocked out of them.

Is it just me (3, Insightful)

korbulon (2792438) | about 5 months ago | (#46332281)

Or does it seem that "serious" tech development has been largely superseded by much more frivolous stuff like social networks, casual gaming, and crap like snapchat? They have their place, sure, but the prices being thrown about for what are after all pretty basic applications are absurd. Seems to me that much of the "value" of these companies is 99% hat and 1% cattle. Exasperated by these tech bubbles - because that's what all this is - they exalt a few lucky morons and do so much damage when they pop.

Re:Is it just me (2)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 5 months ago | (#46332347)

The absurd prices aren't for the apps (FB could build their own version of SnapChat in an overnight coding orgy), but for the user base. It's the 90s tech bubble and "eyeballs" all over again, with the difference that the users aren't just targets for advertisement this time, but also sources of valuable data (and numbers to keep the owners of overinflated public stock placated).

Oh, and meanwhile there's still plenty of serious tech development going on. Tech rarely makes the news though these days, unless it leads to a nice payday for the founders when Google, Apple or FB decide to step in.

Re:Is it just me (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 5 months ago | (#46332557)

Why can't we have a single standard for sending chat-messages, just like we have for e-mail?
What is so difficult about that?

Re:Is it just me (1)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 5 months ago | (#46332607)

Money

(and since /. abhors concise answers, did you know that Verizon still doesn't do IMAP?)

Re:Is it just me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332753)

Money

Pretty much this. Organizations who don't try to make money with chat infrastructure alone stick to using XMPP or IRC (even Facebook and Google hangouts are, or used to be, XMPP-based, just without federation). Making your own chat protocol is for people who can't manage to install IRC, and for hipster startups wanting venture capital.

Re:Is it just me (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 5 months ago | (#46332781)

Why not just use email for it?

There's a niche in there somewhere for making a chat-style app which IDLE's on a folder of your IMAP account (call it "Chats") and sends messages using regular SMTP (which these days is easily fast enough).

That gives you - for no effort - P2P picture sharing, compatibility with *every* device and platform in some capacity, and message storage which follows the user.

Re:Is it just me (1)

StripedCow (776465) | about 5 months ago | (#46332851)

Great idea, actually!

And I don't think it covers a niche. Everybody already has an e-mail address. And everybody seems to prefer the UI-style of chat apps more than their e-mail client. If people start using this, they can easily invite others by just sending chat-messages to their e-mail address.

The only problem is social presence information, and information like "user X is typing" (if you would want that), but that could be handled through another channel (using hopefully an open standard). Also making "groups", and managing them could be a problem.

Re:Is it just me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46348375)

but we have! (had?), remember XMPP? you know the standard behind the now dropped google chat? is not about having standards but about the hindrance of its adoption by corporate greed and users ignorance.

99% knockoffs for every original (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 5 months ago | (#46335259)

Watching a Y-Combinator graduation a huge snooze-fest. However you'd be fabulously rich if you discover the true original. Like Twitter rising to to top of hundreds of messaging startups.

Re:Is it just me (1)

roman_mir (125474) | about 5 months ago | (#46336243)

Yes, because it is much more lucrative to set up a company whose entire worth is based on the latest raging trendy fad mambo jambo silver bullet craze mania and then exit via an overvalued IPO than to build a company that is based around actual products that other people and / or businesses would find legitimate uses to. Personally I am doing the latter, we'll see how that works out in the long run. This took years of software development to build up a platform that can be marketed, searching for clients, selling to them, etc. It's actually hard work and there are no fanfares, no glamour or glitter and the money will never be the same. At least it is actually satisfying to do all of the above steps (ideas, studying the business domain, finding clients, designing, developing, setting up, maintaining, building up on top of that, finding more clients, growing the company, etc.) It is fun, though very tiring.

Re:Is it just me (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46339139)

where else are you going to get millions of pictures of tits from girls that wouldn't otherwise offer pictures of their tits?

that's what i thought, nerd.

$16,000,000,000 is a bargain.

Idiots (1)

Spad (470073) | about 5 months ago | (#46332317)

Why is everyone seemingly obsessed with trying to produce knock-offs of software that's already in a popularity decline?

"Is X the next Snapchat?" No, because people are already bored of Snapchat and moving on to whatever the latest tool for sending people semi-anonymous pictures of their genitals is.

Re:Idiots (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 5 months ago | (#46332373)

Simple: they are because of the chance to score big, if what they create scores big with the demographic that's in demand. If you grab even just 10% or so of the current user base of SnapChat, perhaps FB will offer you a cool beeeellion $s for your company. Makes you wonder how smart it was of SnapChat to turn down these multibillion $ offers; things can only go downhill from here.

Re:Idiots (1)

Rich0 (548339) | about 5 months ago | (#46332823)

Simple: they are because of the chance to score big, if what they create scores big with the demographic that's in demand. If you grab even just 10% or so of the current user base of SnapChat, perhaps FB will offer you a cool beeeellion $s for your company. Makes you wonder how smart it was of SnapChat to turn down these multibillion $ offers; things can only go downhill from here.

They're certainly not the first company to turn down offers and go downhill. Owners get greedy, and maybe they really think that their company could become the next Google. Most social media companies are much more likely to become the next myspace, and they should get out while the going is good before their fickle user base jumps to the next fad.

Re:Idiots (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332527)

moving on to whatever the latest tool for sending people semi-anonymous pictures of their genitals is.

Which is why everyone's obsessed with trying to produce that next tool. Duh.

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#46332727)

There is an open source project for a skype replacement by the name of Tox. I'd much rather hear about that.

Here's one useful thing in this thread (2)

trawg (308495) | about 5 months ago | (#46333503)

... because I can't see anything anywhere else (wtf is this post?) I figured maybe this might be worth mentioning:

Yesterday Moxie Marlinspike announced a new version of TextSecure: https://whispersystems.org/blo... [whispersystems.org]

TextSecure is an encrypted messaging tool - currently for Android, but iOS is in the works. It is open source and has a high focus on privacy and security.

I encourage people to check it out - if you want to Snapchat securely and privately, then using an open source tool that isn't maintained or built by some giant corporatrox that is simply trying to get bought out by Facebook might be a good idea.

Meet the developer? (1)

judoguy (534886) | about 5 months ago | (#46333667)

Hell, we ALL want to be the guy that develops some dumb thing someone else buys for billions of dollars.

If you actually create somethign "secure" (1)

koan (80826) | about 5 months ago | (#46333713)

You might wind up with a bag full of helium over your head.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

Remember, if you're writing the app to get rich, make sure it's for mobile use only, that way you get a registered phone number and a confirmed human.
Also make sure the app leaks info like a sieve and write the TOS (which no one reads) to include the fact you're going to use all their post, photos, and contacts.
The better your app is at data rape, the more Facebook will pay for it.

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