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Self-destructing selfies? Not so fast! Snapchat now offers one-time Replay

'Sorry, I couldn't see – er – HEAR you the first time'

Application security programs and practises

Stealthy selfie service Snapchat has added a new feature to its mobile apps that makes it possible for users to hang onto messages for longer than the senders may have intended.

Dubbed "Replay," the feature added to Snapchat 6.1.0 for Android and iOS allows users to view a Snapchat message, image, or video a second time before the content is deleted from their phones.

That's a significant change for Snapchat, which so far has billed itself as a service where users can feel free to send racy or otherwise compromising photos, confident in the fact that they can be viewed by the intended recipient only once, and only for a limited time (measured in seconds).

In an interview with The Verge, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel said Replay doesn't completely change Snapchat's model. For one thing, he said, you can't use Replay as often as you want.

"You only get one a day, so you've got to use it where it counts," Spiegel said.

For another, Replay only allows users one additional viewing of each message. After the second viewing, the message is deleted from the recipient's phone – and Spiegel says the messages are still deleted from Snapchat's servers after the first viewing.

Even so, the change is bound to worry some Snapchat users, since it means Snapchat messages are now retained on their recipients' phones for longer than they were before. That in turn presumably means they'll be easier for law enforcement, nosy parents, or jealous significant others to retrieve.

But then, security researchers have long warned that Snapchat is hardly a fortress of privacy. A number of hacks have emerged that can save Snapchat images to users' phones permanently, and a group of Canadian teens was recently charged with child pornography for doing just that. What's more, a recent clarification of Snapchat's privacy policy made plain that the company has a number of ways of retrieving messages for police when compelled by a search warrant.

According to Spiegel, the main purpose of Replay is to give Snapchat users a second chance to decipher messages, such as when a message arrives with audio that's garbled or hard to hear.

The feature isn't switched on automatically, either. To activate it, users must download the latest version of the Snapchat app and then enable Replay in the Additional Services menu. Note that this only activates Replay on the receiver's device, however; senders don't get to choose whether their messages are eligible for Replay.

In addition to Replay, the new version of the app includes a few photo filters, a la Instagram, which must also be activated in Additional Services.

"We just decided as a holiday present to the Snapchat community that we would put out a couple things we thought were fun," a sanguine Spiegel told The Verge. ®

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

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