Story image

The dangers of SnapChat...

By Contributor, Fri 19 Jul 2013
FYI, this story is more than a year old

This message will self-destruct in five seconds. That’s the premise behind SnapChat and is hailed as the new Instagram. The app currently sends over 1,000 pictures every second and here’s how it works:

You take a picture and pick who you want to send it to. You then choose how long that picture will stay on their phone before it “self-destructs.”

The app is alleged to even warn senders if recipients attempt to create a screen capture of self-destructing materials.

The first function of the app that comes to mind is that it could be a safe way to “sext.” Dig a little deeper and it’s not that difficult to think of other nefarious ways to use SnapChat.

It could be used to distribute answers on a test. Or, you could use to help set up drug deals or to secretly communicate with your mistress. The list could go on forever, but I think you get the picture.

SnapChat logo

When you use SnapChat to send a picture, does it really disappear?

And that’s the problem, when you use the app to send a picture, does it really disappear? If you read SnapChat’s own privacy policy they state “Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after (a) message is transmitted,” the policy says, “we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case.”

Still not convinced there’s a problem…A simple Google search shows that there are plenty of ways to get around the image destruction and even if it has been deleted, there are companies that will recover the images for a small fee.

Unfortunately, SnapChat creates the illusion that something can disappear and that is where the danger lies. It may seem trivial, but it can have serious consequences when a picture goes in to the public domain. Politicians, celebrities, and sports stars have become victims when a picture or video goes rogue.

So what can we do about it?

I’ve done things that my parents warned me not to do and that I hope my kids won’t do it. However, kids will be kids and sometimes they do things they regret.

Simply banning SnapChat may alienate children from their social network so if they do want to use SnapChat, go through the associated risks with them. It also goes without saying that compromising photos of an underage child can have serious legal consequences, including imprisonment and registration on a sexual offenders database.

Communication is key with any relationship and talking to children about SnapChat and understanding why they want to use it is important. SnapChat can be used for good intentions like sending a funny picture to cheer up a pal and it is yet another way to stay connected to friends.

Stop and think before you send a message

Children also need to stop and think before they send a message as well. I use my trusty “idiot” test to confirm whether or not I send a picture – would I want my friends, family, a future partner, a new boss or the general public to see me in that position or state of undress in a shopping mall? If the answer is no, then I won’t send it because I don’t want to be that idiot everyone talks about.

I love social media and I think that it has a lot of benefits to help us in different ways. We need to remember that social media is not private and it certainly isn’t temporary. Everything we do on social networks is there permanently and is easily searchable. The sooner we all learn and live by that, the better.

‘Til next time…

By Tom Mason

I work for Trend Micro and the opinions expressed here are my own.

Recent stories
More stories