Saturday, March 16, 2013

Why is SnapChat a Problem?

Many apps and technology tools take on a life of their own. They are designed for one purpose and used for another. The major influence with digital apps and tools is how teens use it. Teens made MySpace popular in 2005. They made FormSping popular in 2009. (They also dropped them both like hot potatoes, and caused their demise or imminent demise.) SnapChat is one of those tools. Designed to allow app users to share a quick pic that isn't important enough to post on your FB page or instagram to someone. Maybe you're at the Cheescake Factory and wanted to share a pic of the enormous slice of cheesecake with your friend whose on a diet. Maybe you want to snap and share a quick pic of your outfit. Or want an opinion on which handbag to carry, flowers to buy or the price of steak. A picture is worth 1000 words and sometimes conveys the thought better than 1000 characters in a text. The image sent dissolves after 10 seconds, and the tool won't allow you to save it. But, as with MySpace and FormSpring before it, SnapChat was discovered by kids and became the next hot tech tool, featured on the cover of BusinessWeek and in the Wall Street Journal. So far, so good. So what is it in my cross-hairs? Two reasons: Criminals Use It and Law Enforcement Can't: Because it is so easily abused, and the checks and balances that any responsible tech enterprise should build or put in place are lacking. Law enforcement needs the data to be maintained for longer than 10 seconds to track criminals (including child pornographers and child molesters). From the time the complaint is made, they need to serve notice to the network to preserve the evidence and data and then a subpoena demanding the evidence needed to track the criminals. SnapChat does store anything, or at least claim they don't. SnapChat makes every child porngrapher's fav list. They can tease others using child porn images that disappear in 10 seconds. :-( Because They Think It Can't Be Saved, Users Post Images They Wouldn't If They Knew It was Permanent: Young people are sexting (pictures of naked teens and preteens, including them engaged in sexual activities) more often, thinking the image will "self-destruct" like the contract instructions in Mission Impossible. They don't worry about the image making its way into the principal's hands or their parents email box. But what they hadn't considered was that most mobile devices have a screen capture tool, allowing the users to capture it indirectly. What the user thought was temporary, becomes permanent. While sexting isn't SnapChat's fault, promises it makes and lack of education/warning tips are. Young people need to learn that everything is permanent if it's digital. If they address these two major concerns, I will be happy to set my sights on the next digital tool that isn't using its power responsibly.