Popular photo sharing application promises disappearing pics

Posted at: 11/30/2012 5:22 PM
Updated at: 11/30/2012 6:39 PM
By: Mark Mulholland

SARATOGA SPRINGS - Like on any college campus, Skidmore's students send and receive pictures on their phones throughout the day.

And lately, this is what people are using to do it. It's called Snapchat. Four billion photos are sent using this app every day. It's different than other picture sharing programs because the photos expire just seconds after they're received.

"We just send really silly pictures in school, like I'm in class right now. We just make really ugly faces cause we know no one else can see the picture," said Ashley Turcan, a Skidmore freshman. "It's just a lot of fun."

Freshman Mackenzie Whiting agrees. "You can take really bad pictures of yourself and not be nervous about everyone else seeing them. Forever. It's like using the internet, but not being on there forever."

But it might be there forever. Because there are ways for the recipient to keep the photo before it vanishes. The first is to grab a screen shot. The second is to take a picture of the picture using another camera. So if someone is inclined to send an intimate photo, it might not be that intimate after all.

And law enforcement is watching closely. They're concerned that teens might use it to send inappropriate photos or sexts, thinking they'll disappear forever just seconds after they're viewed.

"This is something I think that can lure you into a false sense of security," said Jim Murphy, Saratoga County District Attorney.

Skidmore students say they aren't using Snapchat to sext. They worry that despite the promise of images disappearing, they might land in front of the wrong eyes.

"It's also stored somewhere on the server. The company says they delete, but it's up to them to keep their word," said Addison Osterhout, a network engineer at Computer Answers in Albany.

Osterhout says Snapchat is currently the most popular non-monetized app, which means it's not making money, but has a rapidly growing following.