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.
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.