Snapchat Not Free From Mobile Privacy Woes

May 21, 2013 14:49:31Posted by John Skorick, MyAKA Founder & CEO

Snapchat Not Free From Mobile Privacy Woes

Snapchat is the latest app to make a big splash in the social communication realm. The service allows users to send photos to each other and designate how long they want pictures to be available before they're automatically deleted from the recipient's device. Typically, users only let photos exist for a few seconds at a time, making it a fun app to send silly photos to loved ones. However, the auto-delete feature may offer a sense of false security, and Snapchat comes with a slew of other issues that could cause mobile privacy concerns.

Hidden, Not Deleted
Because Snapchat photos can only be seen for a limited time, it may seem like the ideal application for online daters. You can send a suitor a picture of you and won't have to worry that he or she will hold on to the photo without your knowledge, right? Unfortunately, it's not that easy. According to a recent Forbes article by Kashmir Hill, Richard Hickman, a 24-year-old forensics examiner based in Utah, found a very simple way to pull "deleted" Snapchat photos from Android devices. He discovered that the pictures weren't actually being deleted, but rather being made invisible on the device, and anyone with base programming knowledge could probably find a way around it.

"I was surprised no one else had done it, because of how easy it was," Hickman told the news source. "It just took a couple of days to discover it."

Bigger Troubles for Snapchat
In addition to the storage of photos that users may think have been deleted, there are other issues with Snapchat chat that may give some pause. For example, though pictures may be hidden on a device, users can still use the "screen capture" feature to store the photo on their device. Snapchat typically informs the sender if the recipient has done so, but that doesn't mean the photo won't be saved on the recipient's device. Furthermore, individuals could take a picture of the screen (with the photo showing) using another device, like a second cell phone, digital camera or tablet, and the sender would be none the wiser.

While it is possible to connect with someone on Snapchat using only user names, you can also find people on the app by having them in your contact list - meaning you have their phone number stored on your device. This may encourage some people to give out their primary phone numbers to someone they don't know well, just so they can easily Snapchat back and forth. Giving this personal information to a stranger is never wise, as you never know how he or she will use it. If you do use Snapchat, it may be best to associate it with a virtual phone number that can be deleted if it falls into the wrong hands.

Snapchat can be a fun app if used wisely, but don't let yourself be fooled into thinking it's a safe way to send and received pictures. Though the photos may disappear from the device, there are several ways people could be restoring or saving them without your knowledge.