Snapchat self-destruct function loophole discovered

A technique to save temporary videos and media sent via the popular iPhone Snapchat app has been discovered, prompting speculation about the security of sharing sensitive or risqué material online. Snapchat, which launched its video service in December, offers a unique service in which users can send embarrassing or perhaps private videos intended for the receiver only, safe in the knowledge that, once viewed, the video will not only be removed from the recipient’s phone, but deleted from the Snapshot servers themselves as well, to prevent the clips from falling into the wrong hands.

Unfortunately though, any such system will have its loopholes, and with a little ingenuity several users have worked out how to save these videos permanently – a move which not only defeats the purpose of the app, but potentially misleads users into believing that their media is more private than it really is.

Hot on the heels of Snapshot’s popularity, Facebook recently developed a “Poke” app which does the same thing – but this has been exploited too by users taking advantage of downloadable file browsers for phones, in which received videos are stored before viewing. From here these seemingly temporary videos can be made permanent simply by copy-pasting them into another location.

Evan Spielberg, Snapchat’s founder, isn’t too worried about the issue, stating: “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!” Meanwhile, Facebook have released a statement reminding its users to be responsible about what they share online, emphasising that no app can be completely secure. Speaking to BuzzFeed, a representative also said that they were currently working to address the issue.

With so many mobile phones on the market now carrying camera software, it’s more important than ever that users are aware of the dangers of sending sensitive material via text message or e-mail. Facebook is going some way to remedy this, but both parental supervision and common sense need to be applied to ensure that the privacy of users is not unknowingly compromised in the future.

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