EXCLUSIVE: Snap Threatens Jail Time for Leakers

January 19, 2018
Updated 24d ago

Snap Inc. has a simple message to its employees: leak information, and you could be sued or even jailed.

The chief lawyer and general counsel of Snapchat’s parent company, Michael O’Sullivan, sent a threatening memo to all employees last week just before The Daily Beast published an explosive story with confidential user metrics about how certain Snapchat features are used.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for those who leak Snap Inc. confidential information,” O’Sullivan said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by Cheddar. “This applies to outright leaks and any informal ‘off the record’ conversations with reporters, as well as any confidential information you let slip to people who are not authorized to know that information.”

A Snap spokesperson declined to comment on the memo.

Snap is already known in the tech industry for being highly secretive about its dealings. Employees are often not told what they’ll be working on before they are hired and are left in the dark about forthcoming announcements until they are made public.

But Snap has suffered an uptick in leaks in recent months, including its unannounced “Stories Everywhere” initiative and a recent round of layoffs across multiple teams — both of which were first reported by Cheddar. Details about its planned redesign for the Snapchat app were also leaked in the press prematurely.

In a memo to employees sent on Jan. 8, one day before The Daily Beast published a trove of leaked user metrics, general counsel O’Sullivan said that leaking confidential information could lead to the government putting “you in jail.”

“If you leak Snap Inc. information, you will lose your job and we will pursue any and all legal remedies against you,” O’Sullivan wrote. “And that’s just the start. You can face personal financial liability even if you yourself did not benefit from the leaked information. The government, our investors, and other third parties can also seek their own remedies against you for what you disclosed. The government can even put you in jail.”

You can read the full memo below:

Team,

As we get ready to report our first annual results as a public company, I wanted to remind each of you of the importance of keeping Snap Inc. information confidential.

We have a culture of sharing information across many teams. That includes metrics, financial results, new products and features, potential partnerships, and strategies. We do this to help us do our jobs better, which in turn makes Snap better.

But this information carries a heavy responsibility. Its premature disclosure can significantly harm our business, including our ability to compete. Because we are a public company, the information also affects how millions of shares of our stock trade every day. We therefore take great care to manage our public disclosures.

As a result, all employees must keep our information strictly confidential until disclosed by Snap. We have a zero-tolerance policy for those who leak Snap Inc. confidential information. This applies to outright leaks and any informal “off the record” conversations with reporters, as well as any confidential information you let slip to people who are not authorized to know that information.

If you leak Snap Inc. information, you will lose your job and we will pursue any and all legal remedies against you. And that’s just the start. You can face personal financial liability even if you yourself did not benefit from the leaked information. The government, our investors, and other third parties can also seek their own remedies against you for what you disclosed. The government can even put you in jail.

To avoid any ambiguity: If you have Snap Inc. confidential information, do not share it outside of Snap, period. If you are contacted by any news source asking for comment on Snap, the only acceptable response is “no comment.” If you are contacted by a news source, you should immediately tell your manager or notify Communications at press@snap.com. If you’ve accidentally disclosed Snap Inc. confidential information, tell your manager immediately.

If you don’t know whether something can be disclosed, the best strategy is to err on the side of caution and not disclose. We have a number of policies and training materials to help educate you. If you don’t know whether something is OK to disclose, just ask.

Thank you again for your commitment to Snap Inc. I trust that you will take these matters as seriously as we do.

Reporting by Alex Heath.