Snapchat is an iPhone and Android app that has recently taken the teenager market by storm. It is a photo messaging application in which users can send a picture of themselves, often with doodles or text on it. To view the message, recipients must hold down the picture link, and after a set time limit, is deleted from both phones and the Snapchat database. Much of the appeal of Snapchat is that it allows users to take and send silly photos that they might otherwise avoid, because every picture is self-deleting. In theory, there is no fear of their pictures being saved on someone else’s phone.
However, there is a flaw in the privacy features of the popular picture messaging app – recipients can take a screenshot with their phones to save any picture that is sent. To counteract this, Snapchat includes a feature that notifies the sender if their picture has been saved. Unfortunately, a method has been discovered that prevents senders from knowing that a screenshot has been taken. This opens up a new issue with Snapchat – what happens when you send something you might regret if it were saved?
The supposed safety and privacy of Snapchat has recently brought up concerns that it could be used as a method for sexting without fear of consequences. Many experts say that the inclusion of a time limit on image viewing could encourage teens to send inappropriate (or even illegal) images to each other. With the new workaround on screenshots, these
images could be saved without their knowledge and distributed to other people. This creates a threat of very serious legal and social consequences.
Recently a scandal occurred at a New Jersey high school in which two female students took naked pictures of themselves and sent them to a boy they knew. He ended up screen-shotting the images and putting them on Instagram. The images ended up spreading throughout the high school, leading authorities to file charges of child pornography possession. Needless to say, the girls at the center of the issue were none too pleased about what happened.
This is not meant as a condemnation of the Snapchat phone application. In fact, I find that, when used appropriately, the app can be a very entertaining time-waster, and a great way of having fun with friends. However, users would be well advised to take some care when using the app. Before doing anything on the internet, people should always remember that nothing is really private. There will always be exploits and workarounds. It might be best to think twice before you act.