It’s one of the most talked-about messaging apps and so successful that it even turneed down a rumoured $3 billion (R31 billion) purchase offer from the cash-flush Facebook. Snapchat has been the darling of the photo sharing scene and messaging scene, especially among the youngest smartphone users and its almost entirely due to its ephemeral nature.
Snapchat’s main point of appeal is that Snaps (the term used for photos, videos and messages sent through the app) don’t last forever, they disappear into the ether of the internet never to be heard of again. Snaps range from the whimsical and comical to the romantic and even the kinky and it’s because of their limited lifespan that people have embraced the service as a way to share things in a way that isn’t permanently recorded on some far off database for future reference by advertisers, marketeers, police, government agents or any other similarly insalubrious people who want to take your moment and turn it into a commercial or surveillance opportunity.
So Snapchat is the perfect platform for disappearing messages. Except for the part where the messages you think have evaporated into the ether are not actually disappearing forever.
Last week Snapchat was forced into a deal with the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which stipulates that it will implement a new privacy programme and face independent monitoring of its privacy practices for the next 20 years, after an allegation that Snapchat’s photos did not “disappear forever” turned out to be true.
How Snaps live on
Snapchat has long known that screenshots would be taken of pictures that the recipient wanted to keep for longer than the sender had originally intended. So built into the app was a notification for the sender that alerted them to the fact there was a now more permanent version of the Snap. However several workarounds were found that took advantage of holes in the way the app reported screenshots, and eventually a slew of apps arrived that would allow you to screenshot Snaps on both iOS and Android without notifying the sender.
Even video Snaps were not safe from the hoarding masses. Until October last year, by connecting a smartphone to a computer and using file browsing tools you could easily locate and save video Snaps which weren’t stored in the same private area of the app as pictures were.
While most users will feel that the biggest violation was that their photos may not have been deleted forever, the bigger problem may lie in the fact that your name and phone number and those of everyone in your address book may have been illegally collected by Snapchat, and then lost during a massive security breach where 4.6 million Snapchat usernames and phone numbers were stolen by hackers.
Deleting your account
If all of this has made you want to leave Snapchat then deleting your account is as simple as going to this link and entering your username and password and following the prompts. Just remember that once you delete it, it’s gone forever.