With technology that could be right out of an "Inspector Gadget" episode, teens across the globe believe they're sending their own self-destructing messages online with an app called Snapchat, but users may be surprised to learn that those photos may not be gone forever after they're sent.
The appeal of the Snapchat photo-sharing app is that the photos you snap, and then share with your friends, disappear from the app in just seconds.
"That's kind of like the appeal because the fun of it is to send embarrassing pictures," one teen told ABC News. "Texting is made for words, but now that there's Snapchat now we can communicate through pictures."
With that belief that there's no permanent record of the photo, the Snapchat community has shared more than a billion snaps since the app was introduced in July.
Worldwide, more than 20 million different, sometimes compromising or embarrassing moments -- and even explicit -- photos are shared every day.
"I've gotten one, but I just asked the person, 'What are you doing? This is gross.' It's just unnecessary. We wouldn't think to send it like that," teenager Rachel Berglass said.
A self-deleting picture app is something some celebrities might appreciate. Like Prince Harry, for example. What if his infamous TMZ photos in Las Vegas were stripped away as instantly as he his clothes were? Or what If Anthony Weiner's boxers had only been on the screen only briefly?
Not only can you take pictures on Snapchat, you can also share video, sending it to your friends the same way. In theory, it disappears in just seconds.
Yet, it turns out that with Snapchat, and with Poke -- a similar app through Facebook -- the videos don't actually vanish as advertised. As first reported by Buzzfeed, people anybody can secretly save your snapchat communications.
"People who are using this and think its private are kidding themselves," Mat Honan, senior editor of Wired magazine, told ABC News. "You can take screen shots, you can save them on a drive. There are all kinds of ways to save these images.
"Everyone has this fear that everything online is permanent so that's the point of this, but having the ability to take a screen shot really defeats the whole purpose of Snapchat."
Calls place to Snapchat by ABC News for comment were not returned.
The takeaway here? If you want something to be private, don't share it. Get the picture?
- Arts & Entertainment