Snapchat is a relatively new photo app for smartphones. It's a very basic one too. You can't edit images, place a filter on them, or put a border round. There are only two things you can really do with those images. Draw or write on them, and share them with your friends.
After a while trying the app, searching twitter and reading the privacy statements on the SnapChat website, I have five major questions users must ask themselves before using a service such as this one.
Are you prepared to see images from people you do not know?
I decided to search twitter for the work "Snapchat" to see what users were saying. Firstly I noticed a huge amount of young people happily broadcasting their SnapChat username to the world. "Snapchat me, I'm InsertUserNameHere" Surely opening them up to anyone sending any unthinkable image.
Anyone can send you an image if they know, or can work out your username. Only afterwards can you look to block them. It's also not at all intuitive to block a user. For the record, you swipe right on their name in your friends list.
Could you be emotionally hurting someone by creating and sharing an image?
Further to my research, I found numerous images also shared to twitter. Many of which had various words, or body parts scribbled all over them using the drawing tool. Although this issue is not simply restricted to SnapChat, it is sadly an avenue for cyberbullying.
Can you trust the recipient will not share the image?
Perhaps the biggest issue is one of implied safety. One of the unique selling points if you will of SnapChat, is that the image will only display to the person you sent it to for a maximum of ten seconds. You must press down on the screen to view the image sent, and once the timer has run out, it vanishes.
What would happen if this image was made public today, in a month, in a year, ten years?
Unfortunately, it's not very difficult to capture a screenshot. The image in this article is one that the SnapChatTeam sent me. I'd captured it within 5 of the ten seconds, on my first attempt. The SnapChat website points out that if you attempt a screens shot, the sender gets informed. To my mind that feature is of little use. Once is sent, you've lost any control you thought you had. Furthermore, the app cannot inform you if someone uses another camera, or a routed phone to capture the image.
Can you trust the company acting as middleman?
SnapChat explain on their website that they do not look at your pictures. The data is temporarily saved on their servers and deleted soon after the intended recipient has viewed the image. However if you look deeper into their privacy section you'll come across the following.
Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case.
These few issues are probably just the tip of the iceberg, and these issues are not limited to this one app. It does however seemed to have grabbed the attention of many users (it is currently higher in itunes picture apps chart than instagram) who may not be concidering all the dangers correctly.
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
IrritableTech is an educational ICT support specialist. Dealing with daily irritations of technology but somehow getting it to work; until it breaks. Passionate about using technology to improve teaching and learning, whilst keeping in mind eSafety, data security and our digital footprints.
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