Tag Archives: Privacy

Snapchat

Snapchat is a photo sharing app with a difference: images self-destruct just seconds after viewing. The whole point is to safeguard privacy. Images are not saved in the cloud where they can come back to haunt the user when s/he least expects it.

Using the Snapchat app to photograph my bookcase

Using the Snapchat app to photograph my bookcase

The user interface is simple. You snap a photo, choose how long you would like it to last (3-10 seconds), select a recipient and tap the send button. When you receive a message, you simply press down on the notification line. You then have a very limited time in order to view the photo. I found it annoying that you have to press and hold, which means that you can’t view the whole photo because your finger is in the way.

Once the time is up, neither the sender nor the receiver can see the photo again. As Snapchat reminds users, however, the app cannot prevent recipients from taking a screen capture of the image that you send them. Thus, even though images are not stored anywhere on your phone or in the cloud, Snapchat is not a completely safe technology to use for sharing photos privately.

I first read about Snapchat a few months ago in Bloomberg Businessweek. The article draws particular attention to the issue of privacy in the digital age. One of the books it references is called Delete: The virtue of forgetting in the digital age. I immediately ordered it from my local library and read it with great interest. If you are at all interested in technology and privacy questions, I highly recommend it.

Snapchat’s effort in attempting to address the issue of Internet privacy is to be commended. While it might not have any direct application in libraries, I believe it does have indirect application in spurring us to think more deeply about reader privacy.

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Scrupulous Sgrouples

sgrouples

Sgrouples.com

Sgrouples.com (like scrupulous) bills itself as the “World’s Private Social Network.”  It claims “no spying, no tracking, no stalking.” It markets itself as the safe alternative to Facebook.  The idea is to create a new social space for friends to gather that doesn’t use your information for marketing purposes.  There are no online ads.  The site allows you to create smaller, separate groups to share with, isolating social groups from business contacts.  It allows collaboration on a document within the website with specified participants.  And while you are waiting for your Sgrouples page to take off, Facebook and twitter can be loaded onto your home page.

Sgrouples market subject is the high school or college student.  They want to educate the young about online privacy, what and how to share, and the consequences of risky or risqué posts.  They have a program they call “Practice Safe Sharing,” which uses videos and blogs to teach high school students the importance of online privacy.  It is the 2012 recipient of the Online Trust honor roll.  The first 4GB of storage is free.  After that, you can store up to 50GM for $4.99 per month.

After reading about Sgrouples in a magazine article, I thought that if this website is all that it promises, it could become my homepage.  With Sgrouples, I would be able to separate who sees which posts.    No more logging into different accounts to keep them private.  Reality, so far is different.  First, access to sgrouples is through a browser; there is no app.   This already slows down the process.  The only other social sites I could add were twitter and Facebook, although they seem to imply that you can add all of your sites such as PInterest and Linkdin.

Even if they don’t have the bugs worked out yet, the potential for Sgrouples is great.  There are many social and collaborative features all on one site.  There is a calendar to keep you organized that automatically takes events from your FB page and adds them to the calendar.  If you add directly to the calendar, you have the choice to choose with whom to share, send invites, set reminders, and add pictures.

There is a discussion board that you can choose with which groups to share.  You can create, edit and share documents in Word, Pdf, and xls.  Documents can be filtered and organized for easy retrieval.  There is a Direct Message feature that you can choose one or many recipients.  Students can use this site to organize group activities, stay up with their social sites, be more organized, access assignments and work on projects all within the same page.

That said, all information is stored in the cloud.  As my fellow classmates have commented, anything stored in the cloud is not completely secure.  Copyright and corporate security must be weighed when using Sgrouples.  And who’s to say that after years of storing our data, they don’t get bought out by an UN-Sgrouples group?

From what I have seen and read so far, Sgrouples is a good step towards smaller groups and creating more online privacy.  In a few years when my kids are in high school, I would rather have them on this site than Facebook.   I will bookmark the site and check back in in six months to see if they have the kinks worked out.