Despite having a meteoric rise to success Snapchat has been facing some serious economic woes as of late, leading to desperate ideas in hopes of regaining their audience stolen by Instagram. Now, it appears even software is working against them, as the iOS 11 software update for Apple products might infringe on Snapchat’s privacy-focused self-deletion and screenshot alert capability.
According to Mic.com the developer version of iOS 11 has a backdoor to recording received Snapchats, without alerting the other user that you are doing so. A part of the update contains a new control panel re-design that contains customizable shortcuts displayed on the bottom row of the panel. Typically these are the more utilitarian iPhone features including the timer, flashlight, calculator and camera. Now with iOS 11, you can swap out these features, including one of the predetermined tools for the screen recording function.
The reporters at Mic decided to do a field test determining if the screen recording option employed through the shortcut would alert the sender of a Snapchat that the received message had been recorded. No alert popped up, meaning that this could save Snapchats permanently without ever indicating this to the sender. This worked for both video and still Snapchat messages.
This is bad for customers, Apple, and perhaps for Snapchat itself. As the growing reality of the surveillance state becomes commonly accepted, the surveillance culture is seeping into our daily lives. Now we can’t even send messages to people without fear that they themselves could be preserving what you thought to be private messages and air them to unwanted eyes. This also proves that there are no failsafes in preserving private digital contact. There will always be workarounds, whether intentional or not, and this tangible breach of privacy could have catastrophic consequences for the company.
Snapchat’s one advantage over Instagram was its more temporary appearance, and the easily idenitifiable notification of someone not respecting social media rules and trying to keep what you thought to be fleeting. As Snapchat suffers, this only gives users more reason to flee to Instagram if the problem is not fixed by either Apple or Snapchat.
Beyond this, the most terrifying aspect is how this story proves the how easy it is to spy on each other. We all worry about the government, but often the biggest cyber-wounds are the ones which are self-inflicted. Programming errors such as this only increase the opportunities for irresponsible people who aren’t thinking of consequences to experience them without even being aware of it until it’s too late. Snapchat hasn’t been having a good couple of weeks I suppose.
In other news, the Instagram PR team just did a collective fist-bump.