The Snapchat App

Apps

Welcome to what I like to call (at times) the digital “wild wild west”,  when it comes to the use of technology, and how quickly our youth will sometimes assimilate it into their lives without thinking critically about consequences to actions. The mobile world is exploding in usage, especially with our youth, as are the App’s that are being downloaded on their mobile devices. Recently an app called “Snapchat” has been released and is now available for “FREE” in the iTunes store for the iTouch, iPad and iPhone.

According to the developers of Snapchat:

“Real-time picture chatting is finally available on iPhone! Snapchat is the fastest way to share a moment with friends. With Snapchat you control how long your friends can view your message, simply set the timer up to ten seconds and send. They’ll have that long to view your message and then it disappears forever. We’ll let you know if they take a screenshot!  Build relationships, collect points, and view your best friends. Snapchat is instantly fun and insanely playful.  Show your friends how clever you can be and enjoy the lightness of being.”

Being a person who likes to read the fine print, I had a read of Snapchat’s privacy policy that can be located here.

A couple of very interesting things that I read in their policy:

  1. Although in their advertising Snapchat implies that a picture posted will be permanently deleted after ten seconds, under the heading “Message Data” in their privacy policy the vendor states, “Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message data will be deleted in every case. Consequently, we are not able to guarantee that your messaging data will be deleted in all instances. Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user.” So much for the picture being permanently deleted after ten seconds!
  1. Snapchat appears to have taken reasonable steps to encrypt their data, but in their Privacy Policy under “Data Security” they state, “As part of the effort to keep your data protected, all contact information and voice data transmitted through the Snapchat application is encrypted with an SSL connection using AES-128 bit encryption between your mobile device and the Snapchat servers. There are a number of risks in transmitting any kind of data over the public Internet and under no circumstances should you use the Snapchat service to transmit confidential or privileged information of any sort”.  Again this emphasizes the learning point that no matter what your privacy settings, or service encryption, it is always wise to understand that no matter what you do online consider it to be public, permanent and searchable.
  1. Under the App Rating, the vendor has advised, “Rated 12+ for the following, infrequent/mild sexual content or nudity, infrequent/mild alcohol, tobacco or drug use or references to infrequent/mild mature/suggestive themes infrequent/mild profanity or crude humor”


Point #3, above, is where the digital “wild wild west” analogy I mentioned earlier in this posting is directed, and what concerns me the most. I see this app being utilized by our youth (and yes adults too) to send questionable pictures (like sexts) believing that by using this App, those pictures will be deleted within 10 seconds.

Point #1, mentioned above, dis-spells this belief, BUT we all know that most people will not read an App’s Privacy Policy. Also, what about screen-capturing the picture before it is deleted? Although the app advises that they will notify the user if this happens, it does not prevent it, so now what? The fact remains that the picture has been captured and can now be redistributed. It also does not account for the fact that a picture of the screen can also be taken with an external digital camera and then redistributed.

Some will say, “Darren you are over-reacting to the potential of this app being abused.”  Am I?!  I just read a review posted in the iTunes Store by a user named Sadowynk dated March 5th 2012,  where he stated:

“Great game for wheelin broads and taking cute selfies to share with the world”

For those who may not understand chat vernacular, check out www.netlingo.com plug in “wheeling” and “selfies” and you will understand why I am concerned about this app being abused.

There is no better way to educate our kids about the positive and negative  challenges that the Internet and Social Networking brings to our youth, than by sitting down with them and having an open and honest conversation with them about such challenges. As parents however, we too need to be educated about new technology and apps as they come to market, so that we can have these open and honest conversations. Knowledge and the understanding and application of that knowledge is power, thus the reason for this posting specific to this app.  

As a parent, we need to take a more active role in parenting and the supervision of Internet and Social Networking use by our kids, especially our younger ones whose critical thinking skills are still developing. In my opinion, this app should be on every parent’s radar.

Darren
The Digital Sheepdog

PS:  This is another reason why monitoring software on both computers and mobile devices are so very important.  Products such as “Spector Pro” for home computers and laptops, and “Phonesheriff” for mobile phones,  will capture these pictures and bring them to the attention of the parent.

Image Source: Gizmodo