Allison's Reflections

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Blog #1010: “Take a Screenshot- It’ll Last Longer”?

Filed under: Uncategorized — allee at 4:37 pm on Sunday, November 13, 2016

Snapchat. Yik Yak. Zap. What do all of these social networking platforms have in common?

In my opinion, they are all attempted loopholes around the necessity for the right to be forgotten. With Snapchat or Zap, the content that you send “disappears” within a certain time frame. With Yik Yak, what you post is absolutely anonymous (or so they say). After all, if there’s no evidence that you ever posted anything, there’s no need to rely on a “right to be forgotten”, right?

Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post makes this claim in her article, even confidently concluding that “Today’s kids don’t need eraser laws — they’re erasing themselves.” She cites the statistic that “the percentage of those officers who say social media has negatively impacted someone’s chances has fallen, in the past two years, from 35 to 16 percent.”

However, I’m not as confident as Dewey. I am admittedly one of the millenials hooked on Snapchat; I mean, who could resist those rainbow-vomiting filters and face swaps? As a frequent user, I am more than acquainted with how you can set timers (up to 10 seconds but as short as 1) for how long the receiver of your Snap can view your photo or video. I’ve sent goofy faces for 1 split second to friends, thinking that they’d laugh but not have the photo to keep.

But I’ve definitely mastered the art of screenshotting within a second, as have my friends. So every February, my Facebook wall is inundated by their collections of my silly selfies. They’re not harmful in any way, but they definitely aren’t something that I want future employers looking up.

So there’s an element of transferability between what is categorized as “volatile social networking services” and other social networks such as Facebook or Twitter, where data is thought to be eternal. I know that Snapchat attempts to mitigate this by notifying senders when the receiver of a Snap takes a screenshot; however, if someone sends something truly regrettable, I imagine the incentive to eternalize it with a simple press of two buttons outweighs the con of having the sender know it was.

I wonder how such the creators of “volatile SNS” will engineer their products to deal with this; after all, if there’s an ability to preserve content, that defeats the purpose of the service. But at the same time, the screenshotting on a phone will always exist. In this published research paper I found, the authors propose that users will switch SNS when the new service provides increased “privacy protection, volatility, and system security”, which is consistent with my observations as a Snapchat user. (Perhaps this article is also relevant to the rise and fall of social networks in general and therefore the seminar our class is planning to put together.) I’d love to discuss this in seminar sometime.



Comment by Mike Smith

November 25, 2016 @ 5:49 pm

Great work in finding related articles and papers! Your discussion of getting around the ephemeral nature of Snapchat and Zap (although I’ve never used Zap) reminds me of the work my start-up did on defeating some of the hacks around our document security system. Screenshots was one attack on the system, which we could disable, but of course, we couldn’t stop someone from taking a picture of the screen with their cell phone!


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