From its humble beginnings as a place to look at pictures of rocks in a museum, the Internet has become a constant driving force in our lives. Every day, we’re bombarded by emails, and invest ever-increasing time in sharing information via social media. With each shared image and word, the trail of photos, blog entries, comments, tweets and more that we all leave behind us gets longer every day. For better or worse, everything we share is available all day, every day, until the end of time. How long does this stuff stay out there? Forever. Who can see it, download it, and share it again? Anyone who wants to.
It’s easy to feel uncomfortable about the complete lack of privacy on the internet. Literally everything you type or upload is forever archived. This concern over privacy was a major driving force behind the explosive popularity of Snapchat. The entire raison d’etre behind Snapchat was its impermanence – 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 we’ll take a look at 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, it may not disappear as thoroughly as you hope.
When it’s used for general socializing, Snapchat is a great platform for sharing your life with your friends, your family, and your fans. You can take snaps, add text and emojis, and generally express yourself however you like. It seems like everyone uses Snapchat, even movie stars, musicians, fashion icons, politicians and reality “stars.” It has really become THE place to be for keeping up with the world around us. However, we all know that there is another, more adult side to Snapchat: sexting. Don’t worry- we aren’t here to judge. We just want to make sure that you’re as aware and prepared as possible!
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.
Cheating the system
- Cheating the system
- Outing…and Worse
- Why You Should Not Send Nudes Via Snapchat
- Is It Safe to Send Nude Pics on Snapchat?
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 not be as scrupulous as the Snapchat system. Do a quick Google search for “save Snapchat photos” and you’ll see over 90 million 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 alone should give you reason to pause before baring all.
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 that won’t make the snap go away. It is now archived on that other person’s device.
In addition, there are several ways to prevent Snapchat from detecting the screenshot. We’re not going to go into detail on how to do it in this article, but it’s pretty simple. 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.
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. Remember the iCloud scandal of 2014, in which almost 500 very private celebrity pictures were leaked to the public? 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, blackmail is extremely illegal, but the reality is that finding the actual perpetrator is often difficult or impossible, especially when that perp is a professional hacker. And although individual people do have legal rights over their own images, the sad reality is that enforcing those personal rights can be cost-prohibitive or even impossible, depending on your willingness to fight.
Why You Should Not Send Nudes Via Snapchat
There are a number of reasons to avoid sending nude or compromising pictures of yourself on Snapchat or any other app. While we’ll never tell you specifically not to do something, it’s important that everyone is well-informed. That’s one the main purposes of the internet, right? Well, that, and cat pictures… .
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. Of course, you can also use TWB to download archival copies of legitimate material that has since vanished from the Web.
Once It’s Out There, It’s Really 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 your boss, family, etc, 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. Is that a chance you’re willing to take?
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.
There’s feature in Snapchat called Snapchat Story, which allows you to share images and videos—but they do not self-destruct. It’s also incredibly 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- or had the chance to save- 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:
- Select the Story you just posted.
- Tap the trash icon on the bottom of the screen.
- 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 if you send them anything with potential sexual content.
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 the idea of sending a nude on Snapchat makes you feel a little guilty, don’t do it. Nobody is worth that.
Is It Safe to Send Nude Pics on Snapchat?
By now, you’ve figured out that it isn’t safe to send any sort of pics on Snapchat, as they can be screenshotted and recorded by the recipient. 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.