Cops, courts fear dangers of app known for naughty reputation

Posted at: 11/18/2013 7:11 AM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4

If you think your son or daughter is hiding something from you on their smartphone, you're probably right.

Chances are they, like other kids, are using an app called Snapchat. It allows the sender of messages to determine how long the receiver can view it -- between zero and ten seconds. After that, the messages self-destruct.

But do they?

Investigators at Homeland Security Investigations, a division of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said tech-savvy people are increasingly finding ways to circumvent Snapchat's signature feature.

"This technology can be dangerous.  Whenever you send something, expect it's always going to be there," said Kevin Abar, assistant special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations.

Abar pointed to a growing number of videos appearing online that tell Snapchat users how to retrieve deleted Snapchat messages and permanently save them.

However, not everyone is tech-savvy and messages will in fact disappear over time.  Prosecutors said they fear that some teenagers will become victims of sexting and lose the proof if they don't know how to manipulate the app.

"Well our concern, obviously, is that they can be abused, and that when they are or when criminal laws are violated, that we won't have the evidence we need to prove in court," said Kari Brandenburg, Bernalillo County's District Attorney.

Despite the potential dangers, more and more people have joined Snapchat.  According to several reports, Snapchat may have as many as 26 million users.

In the last week, the founders of Snapchat turned down Facebook's offer to buy the company for $3 billion.