Update: On May 8, 2014, Snapchat agreed to settle charges by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that it misled consumers, that messages do not disappear, that the company revealed users’ locations and that it collected more personal data that it indicated. Read more here: Snapchat settles charges by FTC, but that doesn’t change much
Snapchat is the social media app for smartphones and computers that allows users to send pictures and videos that is unique in that it claims the images exist only 10 seconds or less before “disappearing.” The fact that the images supposedly don’t live forever is what has propelled Snapchat to popularity, with 30 million messages a day. It is especially popular with tweens and teens. Turns out, though, that despite Snapchat’s claims, the messages do not just disappear.
Experts previously raised the concern about Snapchat misleading kids, because it is pretty clear that nothing on the internet ever disappears, no matter what with Snapchat said. Some worried that anyone could take a screen shot of a Snapchat image and that screenshot could live forever. Now we know that screen shots are only one concern with Snapchat, and that the picture itself really does live forever.
The Daily Beast reports, “A digital forensics company discovered that the app actually saves the images to a hidden folder on the phone called RECEIVED_IMAGES_SNAPS. A file extension called ‘.NOMEDIA’ keeps the images from being viewed, but the Decipher Forensics team has found a way to take the files off the phone and change the extension, making them viewable again.”
Decipher is currently charging $300 to $500 to extract the photos. The Daily Beast found that to be comforting, but I can see a collection being taken up in the junior high lunch room that reaches that figure pretty quickly if there’s something students really want to see.
The money is not what is at issue when it comes to retrieving Snapchat images. The issues are A) the fact that nothing on the Internet goes away, ever; and B) tweens (and an alarming number of adults) often seem to not realize the fact that what you post online can and does live forever.
Interestingly, Richard Hickman, the digital researcher at Decipher Forensics who figured out that Snapchat isn’t fleeting as it purports to be, told KSL TV that pictures taken through the basic camera on an Android phone were actually more difficult to trace than the Snapchat photos.
Is your tween on Snapchat? Are you surprised that Snapchat photos are retrievable? Let us know in the comments!
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