SnapChat, the very popular mobile app that allows users to share photos for up to 10 seconds and then delete them, recently admitted they don’t really delete the photos, they just rename them. A lot of attention this past week was paid to SnapChat’s lie and subsequent settlement. My question is: Why is anyone surprised? Doesn’t everyone know that NOTHING is private online? Companies and sites that claim to “delete” your information are either lying or not telling you the whole truth. Everything we do online is archived, shared, copied, transferred or cached. Every photo we post, every text we send and every email we delete could very likely be retrieved weeks, months or even years later. The word “delete” should be erased from our online vocabulary. Even if, after a “reasonable amount of time”, social networking sites agrees to delete our information, there are companies who are online archiving and saving everything we do. That is, of course in addition to other users or companies who have already had access to our information and have copied or transferred our images, posts or texts. I like SnapChat. It is a cool service and can be very fun. What I don’t like is that the vast majority of users, who are hurt, embarrassed or humiliated by the misuse of photos are children or teens. What I don’t like is that despite a federal law that prohibits anyone under age 13 from having an account online without an adult, we have over 90 million children with online accounts. SnapChat and other social networks offer amazing connection to others and a transforming experience. They also come with serious risks. Adults can face those risks and make their own informed or (uninformed) decisions. Children and young teens, however, are not developmentally ready to handle the responsibilities and consequences that come with social networking.
SnapChat Lied. But, in reality, most companies or people online who claim to delete your information are lying. Anything we post or send or attach is subject to being saved or transferred or cached or copied. Going online comes with risks. Losing control of your posts, images or texts is perhaps the most serious risk.