Is this Snapchat clone really an end to your embarrassing Facebook photos?

Filed Under: Data loss, Facebook, Featured, Privacy

Have you ever hesitated before sharing a photo on Facebook of yourself, stark naked, vomiting into things that are not meant to be vomited into, and/or falling asleep in your oatmeal?

Glorious day!

Now you can blindly put your faith in a new app, Secret.li, to supposedly control who sees your truly embarrassing Facebook photos and for how long.

Secretli shot

This thing's available now on Apple's app store.

It promises that once the time period you've specified expires, your egregious photo magically blips out of existence, deleting itself from the app and from Facebook.

No worries about security, either, the app's developer promises.

Your photos will be protected with the use of a "safety filter", whatever that means.

This is great, just great. People's naked photos won't come back to haunt them, nor will anybody ever again lose a job opportunity because of their well-documented weekend activities.

What could possibly go wrong?

Well, let's see.

I guess we could compare Secret.li's premise to that of its predecessor, Snapchat, which promised a similar thing - magically poofed-into-oblivion-photos - with texting or sexting or what have you.

Snapchat was designed to allow senders to control how long a message or picture could be seen.

SnapchatSnapchat photos expire after a maximum of 10 seconds.

Except when they don't.

US-based computer forensics specialist Richard Hickman studied the app's premise and found that Snapchat photos don't actually disappear at all.

Studying a forensic image of a phone running Snapchat, Hickman found a directory called received_image_snaps.

Its contents: Both unviewed and supposedly "expired" images.

Sharing with Snapchat entails your images - be they porny, barfy, or "just fire me now" - being stored both on Snapchat's servers and on recipients' phones, though marked "not for display."

Sound too hidden away, too tough to sniff out unless you're a bored security researcher? Well no worries there, because somebody recently cooked up an anti-Snapchat app. For $1.99, the app, called Screenshot Save for Snapchat, keeps those images on hand forever, for as long as the recipient likes, thereby enabling them to be saved "for easy sharing with friends!"

Secret.li requires that users who want their Facebook photos to disappear in a set period of time have to be logged in to the app. The app, in turn, needs access to your Facebook account.

Secret.li is available on the app store, for use on the iPhone 3GS or later.

The app applies a filter to transform your updated images into a lovely mass of pixels. You can make the image accessible for a certain period of time, to a chosen set of people.

Who, one would desperately and perhaps naively need to hope, don't lunge for a screen capture or to simply snap a photo of their screens.

Secretli logoThe only thing that other people will see in your newsfeed is a colorful mess of pixels.

Is this app a bad idea? Oh, I don't know. It sounds about as safe as Snapchat when it comes to keeping your images private. (*cough!* *wouldn't trust it, nor my friends!* *cough!*)

Of course, the safest way to handle embarrassing photos is to not take them, after which the safest way to keep them out of the wrong hands is to not post them online nor send them electronically to anybody whatsoever.

But let's get real.

We're all familiar with Greek statues. Obviously, their main point in existing is to demonstrate that people have been sexting with nudies back before electricity was even a spark in Edison's brain.

If you're going to continue in the capture of nude self-portraits or those that involve regurgitation, just please don't put too much faith in an app that promises self-destruction.

As Snapchat's history has shown, in those waters be dragons.

Image of selfie courtesy of Shutterstock.

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3 Responses to Is this Snapchat clone really an end to your embarrassing Facebook photos?

  1. Machin Shin · 387 days ago

    "Obviously, their main point in existing is to demonstrate that people have been sexting with nudies back before electricity was even a spark in Edison's brain."

    You realize Edison was a fool who was pushing DC power right? The AC power system we use today on the other hand you can thank Tesla for. Edison gets far to much credit when in reality he gave us very little next compared to several other inventors.

    • thegreenwwizard · 386 days ago

      Just that now, the new technology is to transport electricity over 500 km with DC current, because there are less lost on the lines, (induction) and they use high voltage. (ABB.com)

      • Ambianca Chakrananda · 386 days ago

        Machine Shin's comment doesn't refer to long-distance transmission, which is a completely separate issue, and in any case it's irrelevant to what Edison advocated --- namely, the use of DC power for *local* distribution and end-user consumption, which is still such a bad idea that no one on the planet uses it. We can thank Edison for some useful inventions, but electrical power generation and distribution isn't one of them.

        What's more, Tesla actually demonstrated a wireless system for long-distance power distribution in his Colorado experiments. (Read "Prodigal Genius", a biography of Tesla by John J. O'Neill.) Unfortunately, like so many of Tesla's other innovations, that particular secret died with him. But fortunately for us (and mostly thanks to George Westinghouse), Tesla's multi-phase AC power generation and distribution system survived.

        By the way, what's "DC current"...direct current current? Is that like "PIN number"...personal identification number number?

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About the author

I've been writing about technology, careers, science and health since 1995. I rose to the lofty heights of Executive Editor for eWEEK, popped out with the 2008 crash, joined the freelancer economy, and am still writing for my beloved peeps at places like Sophos's Naked Security, CIO Mag, ComputerWorld, PC Mag, IT Expert Voice, Software Quality Connection, Time, and the US and British editions of HP's Input/Output. I respond to cash and spicy sites, so don't be shy.