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Should you get snap-happy with Snapchat?

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If you ever catch someone pulling a hideous face for a selfie on their smartphone, don’t be confused. That unflattering photo isn’t going anywhere near their precious Facebook profile for all to see; instead it’ll be sent to a group of friends who can giggle at it for a few seconds before poof! – it’s gone.

Developed by four Stanford University students and available for both Apple and Android smartphones, Snapchat is the latest trend on the social app scene. It claims to be 10 times faster than sending pictures using MMS, and it uses the Internet instead of your phone service saving you paying around 75 cents per pic. Recently it was reported that around 150 million photos are shared per day using Snapchat.

How to Snapchat

Using the app is easy;

  • Just take the snap and set the timer for up to 10 seconds.
  • If you’d like, you can add a short caption and some doodles.
  • Send it to any friends who also have Snapchat.
  • When you open snaps from other people, you can look at it until the timer runs out, and then the picture closes and can’t be opened again.

Simple.

But while most people have used Snapchat to take the classic act of pulling faces at each other from a departing train or car window to a global level; there has been a surge of people using the app for snaps that are a lot saucier than a stuck-out tongue, which never ends well.

Security concerns

To most people the pictures seem gone forever once the timer runs out. Snapchat’s app description claims it’ll let you know if anyone takes a screen shot of an image you send.

However, it was recently discovered that the app only uses a basic method of deleting images from its server, and it doesn’t use encryption. That means it is possible to retrieve snaps with a bit of digital forensics once they’ve been ‘deleted’, though this method is a bit beyond the reach of the average Joe.

The real worry is that several other app developers have already released apps designed to allow users to capture and store Snapchat photos permanently – without notifying the sender that a screenshot was taken. These apps require the smartphone to be “rooted” or “jailbroken”, which means the phone’s operating software has been hacked to allow unauthorized modifications. Doing that to your phone voids its warranty. That’s a pretty extreme measure just to “save an awesome photo a friend sent you”, which is how one app describes itself. But I’m not at all convinced that that’s the main motive of the app.

Some testing done by yours truly (with an iPhone 4S, a Samsung Galaxy S3 and a very safe snap of a coffee cup) concluded that a special app wasn’t even needed to take a stealthy screenshot, so there’s definitely a few bugs to work out when it comes to the “security” of the app.

But when you think about it, being told that a screenshot was taken of your photo is about as useful as a car thief leaving a note in the driveway to let you know that they have your car now – so what’s the point?

Obviously there’s still no safe way to send snaps to strangers (especially not saucy ones!) but if you can’t trust your friends not to share that picture of you pretending to pick your nose, then it might be time to assess your friendships.

Fad or fantastic?

Do you think Snapchat will stick around for longer than ten seconds, or will it go the way of Words with Friends and other fads? Let us know in the comments.

 

3 comments

  1. Jack Cola says:

    There’s nothing stopping someone of taking a photo of their phone with another camera. That, the average Joe can do.

    Best thing to do is see them face to face – that way, you relay on the brain for remembering the photo. Plus, you may even get to touch.

  2. chocgiraffe says:

    I joined and am bored with it already, I get cute pics of friends kids… but I “can’t” save it I cant reply unless by text, I can’t like as in facebook!!
    Plus I am concerned for the digital footprint left out there somewhere, so I will only snap food pics to make my friends jealous… lol

  3. Wendy says:

    Fun app keeping in touch with sis & daughter in Darwin, daughter in Switzerland, can get a snap of what their doing, weather , food snaps r fun better than txting & adding pic & cheaper !!

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