Can Snapchat Detect a Screen Recorder?
Snapchat is a social media app first launched in 2011 that quickly grew into a dominant player in the image- and video-sharing space. Its unique combination of filtered images and ephemeral chat messages, and its huge array of (sometimes random-seeming) features has powered the app’s meteoric growth. As of early 2018, more than 190 million daily users were sharing images and messaging one another using the app. One of the fundamental features of Snapchat from the very beginning was the idea that shared content and messaging would all disappear 24 hours after being read by the recipient. Although the platform is no longer purely faithful to this concept, with some forms of content being archivable, message privacy is still a core promise of the app. One question commonly asked by Snapchat users is whether or not the app can detect the use of screen capture software by either participant in a chat. In this article I will explore that question, as well as discussing the various ways users have attempted to breach Snapchat’s privacy system.
How Does It Work?
The Snapchat app does attempt to detect the use of screen capturing programs by people using the app. If the Snapchat program detects a screen capture (either of a shared image or from a chat session), it will place a notification icon in the chat log on the Friends page to alert the other member(s) of the conversation that someone took a screenshot of the app’s displayed messages. There are three icons that Snapchat uses to display this information.
The notification in the Friends list will have one of these icons plus the word “Screenshotted.”
Here’s the problem: Snapchat’s detection of screenshots is spotty, at best. Let’s take a look at the two platforms Snapchat runs on.
Screen Capture with Android
We often speak of “Android smartphones” as though this was just one type of machine running one operating system, but in fact there are many versions and releases of the Android operating system itself, coupled with literally thousands of different physical smartphones and tablets capable of running the Android OS. In addition to the sheer variety of possible Android configurations, the Android OS itself is fairly wide-open; any phone manufacturer can start their own Android fork and heavily modify whatever code they wish (and many phonemakers have done exactly that).
On top of that, the Android OS is extremely easy to write powerful applications on, and those applications generally have permission to do whatever they want on the device. This means that Snapchat’s efforts to detect screenshots made on Android phones is basically doomed from the very beginning. The app is able to detect if the normal control combination used to trigger a screenshot (volume down + power button) has been used, and it can detect whether the built-in operating system screenshot software is being used, but there are literally hundreds of other ways an app can take a screenshot and Snapchat cannot begin to detect even a small percentage of them.
The bottom line is that it is easy to take an undetected screenshot on an Android phone, with a minimal investment of time or effort.
Screen Capture with iPhone
The iPhone is a slightly different kettle of fish. There is only one designer of iPhones, Apple Computer, and Apple also has complete control over the iOS operating system. iOS itself is much more tightly controlled than Android. This has the benefit of giving developers a reliable and stable platform on which to release apps, but has the downside that many functions that any Android user can perform trivially easily are difficult or even impossible with an iPhone. Among those tasks: taking a screenshot other than by using the official Apple screenshot program. (Which, naturally, Snapchat can detect.)
Older models of the iPhone can be broken out of the software prison that Apple so carefully designs for its products, a process known as jailbreaking. An iPhone which has been so liberated can install apps from outside the official Apple ecosystem, including some apps that can take screenshots without being detected by the Snapchat app. However, the newest models of the iPhone cannot be jailbroken, and so there is essentially no easy software method for bypassing Snapchat security on a late-model iPhone.
How to Sneak a Screenshot
If you would like to take a screenshot of a Snapchat conversation/video without being detected, there are a few ways to do it.
- Use another phone. The simplest and the safest way is to use another phone to record the screen of your main phone. This works for both Android and iOS. Quality won’t be perfect, but you can get a usable image by taking a picture of a phone screen.
- Go offline. Open the Snapchat app and find the post you would like to take a screenshot of. Wait until it fully loads, then turn off the Wifi and mobile data. Also, switch your phone to airplane mode to prevent it from automatically reconnecting. Take the screenshot, and then go to System settings and find Snapchat in the Apps folder. Go into Snapchat’s Storage and clear both cache and data. Turn the Wifi back on and log back in to Snapchat. This works only on Android.
- Quicktime. This one is for iPhone users. Install Quicktime on the computer and then connect your iPhone to it. Open Quicktime and choose “File”, then “New Movie Recording”. Hover the mouse over the recording button and a menu with additional recording options will appear. Choose your iPhone as movie recording input.
- Google Assistant. This one is for Android users. Open Snapchat and find the message or photo you want to save. After that, activate the Google Assistant and ask it to take a screenshot (you can either type it or say it). Then, save the screenshot to the cloud or upload it to Google Photos. You can’t save the screenshot to your phone’s gallery.
- Use an app. On Android or a jailbroken iPhone, there are many free third-party screenshot or screen recorder apps. You can easily find one that bypasses Snapchat’s detection; just install an app, do a screenshot in a conversation with a friend who you’ve explained the situation too, and see if Snapchat detects the screen capture.
There is a permanent conflict here between Snapchat’s desire to have their app function a certain social environment, and the desire of many Snapchat users to take screenshots of good content regardless of what the policies are. Have you found another way to take a Snapchat screenshot undetected? Let us know in the comments below.
We’ve got plenty of Snapchat resources to help you get more out of your snaps.
Here’s our guide to editing text in a Snap after it’s been posted.
We’ve got more information about what the various emoticons in Snapchat signify.
Here’s a walkthrough on the subject of what the numbers in Snapchat mean.
If you’re concerned for privacy, check out our guide to making a private story in Snapchat.
Too many stickers? We’ve got a tutorial on getting rid of stickers in Snapchat.