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The Resource Center Child Identity Theft & Protection | post

Snapchat Poses Major Dangers for Young Users

by Steve Schwartz on

You may have heard about a relatively new application called Snapchat. In fact, given how fast its use is growing, there is probably a good chance your kids are using it. You might want to share what follows with them.

The concept is relatively easy to understand. Using Snapchat you can send messages, photos and videos to friends who are also Snapchat users. Each message has a viewing time of one to ten seconds after first being opened, and then they will simply self-destruct and disappear from the recipient's phone or tablet or computer. The message is deleted and can no longer be viewed using Snapchat. The sender sets the amount of time.

Moreover, if your recipient tries to make a copy of the message or photo you have sent, the app automatically notifies Snapchat and Snapchat immediately notifies you. You are safeguarded.

Introduced late last year, the app is now being used by millions. According to Snapshot's own website: currently "50 million snaps (are) shared every day."

We have constantly told our kids to be very, very cautious about what they send over the Internet because whatever they send is there in the ether forever. But now here is a way to feel free to share with your friends whatever you want because poof, in ten seconds it is gone.

It sounds like fun. You can gossip, you can be perfectly honest. For many users it has become the ideal way of sending suggestive messages or pictures. It is perfect for sexting.

Well, I'm sorry, but I'm here to interject more than a few words of caution.

There are several ways that a photo or video sent via Snapchat can be copied. The company itself says "screenshots can be captured if you’re quick." You think you are protected because you will be notified if this has happened. But even in that event, you are still at the mercy of the "friend" who has received the "snap" to not abuse its use.

But more troubling is the fact that the Web is full of advice on how to make a copy without the sender being notified. Apparently you have to use two hands and be quick, but all you have to do is follow the step-by-step instructions that can be readily found online.

Moreover, you can simply make a copy by having a camera and taking a picture of the picture, so to speak. If you do this the sender will be none the wiser.

Then there is what remains on Snapshot's own servers. The company says once a message is sent and disappears, it disappears from Snapshot's servers. Well the message might but it appears the attachment does not.

The company says "Snapchat collects the following information about its users: name, username, password, email address, phone number, Facebook ID, and uploaded videos and images."

The company says it "takes reasonable steps to help protect your personal information in an effort to prevent loss, misuse, and unauthorized access, disclosure, alteration, and destruction. There are a number of risks in transmitting any kind of data over the public Internet and no company can prevent every risk. Under no circumstances should you use the Snapchat service to transmit confidential or privileged information of any sort."

The company's own words of warning should be warning enough for your kids. I hope.