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Is it Safe to Send Nude Pics on Snapchat?

Posted by Jamie on April 1, 2019

From its humble beginnings as a place to look at pictures of rocks in a museum, the Internet has become an ever-present, if not omnipotent, force in our lives. The trail of personal photos, blog entries, social media comments, tweets and more that we all leave behind us gets longer every day. It’s like the permanent record they used to warn us about, but digital and available to anyone with a computer or smartphone, 24/7. How long does this stuff stay out there? (Forever.) Who will see it? (Probably anyone who wants to.)

This concern over privacy and the worry about having one’s personal dealings forever archived was a major driving force behind the explosive popularity of Snapchat. The entire point of Snapchat back in its early days was that it was impermanent – your snaps would disappear a few seconds after being seen, never (presumably) to darken your door again. Unsurprisingly, Snapchat became a huge phenomenon among people who wanted to, shall we say, engage in some online naughtiness but didn’t want it to end up on their Facebook feed. People thought “hey, I can send whatever pictures I want, because Snapchat just deletes them for me!”

Do they, though? Do those pictures really disappear forever? How can you be sure?

In this article I’m going to discuss the privacy issues surrounding Snapchat in some detail, but here’s the bottom line. If you’re tempted to send off a photo of yourself showing off your birthday suit, be warned: that photo may yet come back to haunt you.

When it’s used for general socializing, Snapchat is a great platform for sharing your life with your friends, your family, your network. You can take snaps, add text and emoji, and generally express yourself however you like. Celebrities like movie stars, musicians, fashion icons, politicians and reality “stars” are also on the network, making it the place to be for keeping up with the world around us. However, we all know that there is another side to Snapchat: sexting. (Don’t worry, we aren’t here to judge.)

Theoretically, you would think it safe to send nude pics on Snapchat. After all, the image disappears after 10 seconds never to be seen again, right? Not so fast.

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Cheating the system

It’s true that Snapchat itself deletes your snaps; nobody can go back through your chats and mine them for revealing photos. Unfortunately, the software is only a small part of the whole system. There’s a human being at the other end of your Snapchat session, and that person might be a real bastard. Do a quick Google search for “save Snapchat pics secretly” and (as of April 2019) you’ll see 851,000 results. There are hundreds of websites showing you how to keep snaps you are sent or just providing information about how the service works; even TechJunkie is in on the action. Some will even show you how to do it without notifying the sender that you’re saving the snap. That should set off a few alarm bells.

By default, if you are running Snapchat on a smartphone, it detects when you take a screenshot on your device while the app is open. If you’re taking a screenshot of a snap, Snapchat informs the other person. That’s fine and the way it should work, but of course it doesn’t stop the fact that the snap already was sent (and was recorded). You’ll probably stop sending pictures to that person once you know they’re betraying your trust, but All well and good, but that doesn’t make the snap go away. It will likely stop someone sending more, but the damage is already done.

In addition, there are several ways to prevent Snapchat from detecting the screenshot. I’m not going to go into detail on how to do it here, but it’s not rocket science. Anybody can turn Airplane mode on and off (which is one technique for foiling the notification) and in addition, the Snapchat screenshot detection only works on actual phones. If you’re running a Bluestacks client on a PC, Snapchat will have no idea that you’ve taken a screenshot. And of course, anyone can use a second phone or camera to take a picture of another phone’s screen undetected.

Outing…and worse

Why would someone want to save a copy of your pictures? Well, aside from the obvious reasons of wanting a permanent copy of the image for themselves, there are a couple of different outlets for such material. The Internet is full of websites that specialize in “outing”, the presentation of unauthorized nude images of people taken without their consent. Material snagged from Snapchat is one of the main drivers of those sites.

Another potential outlet, even more disturbing, is the use of such images for blackmail or extortion purposes. While there are many people for whom the release of nude images would be merely embarrassing, there are others for whom it could threaten their education, their employment, their family situation, or even their lives. Obviously to extort someone with naked pictures is illegal, but the reality is that finding the actual perpetrator is often difficult or impossible. And although individual people do have legal rights over their own images, the sad reality is that if your image is not worth a huge amount of money, enforcing those personal rights can be cost-prohibitive or even impossible.

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Compelling reasons why you should not send nude pics on Snapchat

There are a number of reasons to avoid sending nude or compromising pictures of yourself on Snapchat or any other app.

The internet is forever

The idea that images are only online temporarily, or that social networks come and go, is not entirely true. Images are archived, entire websites are recorded, reverse image lookups make finding identities easy, and images are often copied from one website to others.

Nothing is ever truly deleted from the web. Visit The Wayback Machine to see complete archives of nearly every website ever published. Type in a URL of a website or web page of a site long gone and prepare to be amazed. (More productively, you can use TWB to download archival copies of legitimate material that has since vanished from the Web.)

Once it’s out there, it’s out there

Before posting anything to a social network, ask yourself, “would I be happy with my boss/mother/father/sister/partner seeing this?” If the answer is no, don’t post it. While your intended audience may have no intention of showing it to anyone, once you send that pic, your control over it ends.

If you have a falling out with the recipient, you have to then trust them not do anything with that image.

Losing control

I’ve mentioned it already, but this point is important, so it’s worth repeating. Once you post something online, in Snapchat or anywhere, you lose control of it. It’s out there, free for anyone to do with what they will. That could mean nothing, which is great. It could also mean something, which isn’t so great.

Revenge porn, outing, blackmail and more can all begin with the wrong nude pic in the wrong hands. While it may never happen, it’s a serious risk.

Snapchat Story

There’s feature in Snapchat called Snapchat Story, which allows you to share images and videos—but they do not self-destruct. It’s far too easy to accidentally post something to a Snapchat Story rather than as a direct message. While you can quickly remove it, you have to pray that nobody saw the image or video you just posted.

If you accidentally hit that little rectangle icon with the plus in it, you are out there. You will need to move fast to take it down before someone notices it. Here’s how:

  1. Select the Story you just posted.
  2. Tap the trash icon on the bottom of the screen.
  3. Confirm deletion.

The snap will now be deleted, hopefully before anyone noticed it!

You don’t know who you’re talking to

Unless you do actually know the person you are talking to, you have no idea who the other person is, how old they are, what they want and what they will do with your nude selfie. That person could be much older, much younger, a criminal or just generally untrustworthy. And even if you think you’re communicating with someone you know and trust, you can never be absolutely certain it’s them in possession of their phone. Maybe they lost their phone on the bus, maybe a roommate picked it up, you can never be totally sure.

Colleges and employers check social networks

While in theory, snaps should never appear on a social network or anywhere online, as you now know, that doesn’t mean they won’t. Having your nude pics hijacked not only makes life difficult in the here and now, it can also have ramifications further down the line. Colleges, recruiters, scouts and potential employers all check a potential candidate’s social network accounts to get an idea of their personality.

What if one checked your name and found your nude pics?

Coming of age

Age may be relative to us but in the eyes of the law it is definitive. People can get into untold amounts of legal trouble sexting with a minor, even if they didn’t know the person’s age. While the issue may be resolved eventually, this is a situation no right-minded person would want to be involved in.

Unless you know or can verify the age of the person you’re talking to, you are at risk.

Guilt

We have all done dumb things in the heat of the moment. Previously, if someone made a mistake, it could be kept quiet or hopefully between those involved. But with the internet and social networks, that’s no longer true.

If you think you might do something stupid or send a nude pic on Snapchat and feel guilty afterwards, don’t do it. Nobody is worth that.

Is it safe to send nude pics on Snapchat?

I think by now you’ve figured out that it isn’t safe to send nude pics on Snapchat. But if you still feel it’s worth the risk, just be sensible about what you post.

  • Avoid full face shots if posing nude.
  • Hide distinguishing marks such as tattoos.
  • Be very selective about who you send them to.
  • Build up a level of trust before sharing any personal information.
  • Know definitively who you are talking to.
  • If your gut says stop, stop.

Be careful out there!

Got any other tips for staying safe on Snapchat? Tell us about your experiences below.

TechJunkie has a lot more material about Snapchat to show you. We can teach you how to find your friends on Snapchat, how to know if someone has added you, how you can fix Snapchat crashes on your phone, and how to know if someone is stalking you on Snapchat.

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