December 28, 2012
Even Snapchat Cannot Keep Sexting Images Private Forever
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
There's this crazy thing the kids are doing these days that's only made possible by modern technological advances and smartphones: Sexting.
Though this fact is hardly news, sexting works just as it sounds. People, often the younger generation, will send provocative pictures of themselves to one another (also can include explicit texting an email). While this trend has been around for several years, one smartphone app has come under some scrutiny as of late for essentially offering a safe place in which to share nude pictures with others.
Snapchat is a photo and video sharing service with a special and interesting twist: It gives users the power to control how long their photos can be seen by those they sent the pictures to. This, in and of itself, is suspicious enough, as it's highly unlikely anyone would have a problem with their friends seeing perfectly safe pictures for longer than a few hours. If this were an actual feature the average user wanted, it's likely we would have already seen it built into other photo sharing services, such as Instagram.
Once this user-determined viewing time has lapsed, the photo is said to disappear completely; Even the operators at Snapchat say they can't see the pictures in question, adding they aren't stored on any server.
However, some "inspired" individuals have now discovered a way in which Snapchat videos can not only be seen even after the deadline has passed, but they've also discovered that these videos are stored locally on the mobile device in question, be it Android or iPhone.
The easy answer to storing these photos and videos (again, why is it so important that these supposedly innocuous images are saved?) is to simply take a screenshot. However, the sender is alerted whenever the receiver takes such actions. According to Buzzfeed, these videos can be saved and viewed again and again by using a simple (and often free) file browser, such as iFunBox for iPhone. These file browsers provide an open view into all the files saved on your device and can be useful when locating problem files or changing the stock icons on your iPhone home screen.
While photos were not found to be stored locally, videos can easily be copied onto a computer to be viewed repeatedly. What's worse, these files can even be shared on the Internet, likely to be viewed by those the sender never intended.
When Buzzfeed asked Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel about this loophole, he explained that he wasn't too concerned about users taking advantage of the videos in this way.
"The people who most enjoy using Snapchat are those who embrace the spirit and intent of the service. There will always be ways to reverse engineer technology products – but that spoils the fun!” he said.
Buzzfeed also discovered Poke, Facebook's answer to Snapchat, also stored videos locally on the devices. Though Poke videos are deleted once they are seen, it's still possible to capture these videos via a file browser if they've yet to be viewed.
Facebook sent a statement to Buzzfeed, saying: "Thanks for reaching out, and we are addressing this issue now. We should have a fix pushed shortly."
For now, it seems those who want to continue sexting their friends should stick to pictures, lest the videos wind up in the great wide open of the Internet. Of course, it's also possible to simply stop taking naked pictures of yourself and sending them across the airwaves.