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Snapchat (sort of) admits your old picture data doesn’t exactly disappear

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Confirming what Decipher Forensics researcher Richard Hickman told Digital Trends last week, Snapchat admitted on its blog that your snaps don’t just disappear into the impenetrable ether of the Internet.

The bulk of the blog post downplayed the potential for re-discovering photos, and noted that Snapchat deletes seen snaps from both its servers and sends instructions to delete snaps to phones.

“So … you know … keep that in mind before putting any state secrets in your selfies.”

Digital Trends discussed this update with Hickman, who hasn’t made contact with Snapchat but said the blog post likely sprang from the publicity his research received. “Yes, I think that Snapchat is downplaying my research. I don’t blame them either, this is bad for them. However, not everything they have posted is accurate from what I have found so far. They say that after a snap is viewed that it is deleted from temporary memory, however, in every instance that I have tested, it is not. That is not to say that in other instances they are not deleted, because more testing is necessary.”

So Hickman thinks Snapchat’s not being totally accurate. At least they’re admitting to something – right at the tail end of the blog post, Snapchat snuck what amounts to an admission in: “Also, if you’ve ever tried to recover lost data after accidentally deleting a drive or maybe watched an episode of CSI, you might know that with the right forensic tools, it’s sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted. So … you know … keep that in mind before putting any state secrets in your selfies.”

The fact that the company admitted that you can potentially recover deleted data highlights the fact that researchers like Hickman poked a hole in their claim to impermanence that no amount of nudie pics can fill.

And that said, you’re probably OK sending semi-scandalous pictures on Snapchat, as long as you’re sending it to someone sane enough to question the value of shelling out the hundreds of dollars Decipher Forensics asks for to dig up an old picture. Maybe if a company comes out with really cheap recovery tools, you’d be wise to forego Snapchatting anything remotely scandalous altogether – until then, you’ll have to use your own common sense. Just don’t document your illegal exploits with the app and you should be fine, since the most obvious way this Snapchat resurrection may be used is to aid law enforcement.

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Kate Knibbs
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Kate Knibbs is a writer from Chicago. She is very happy that her borderline-unhealthy Internet habits are rewarded with a…
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