Computers, Privacy & the Constitution
This post on the New Yorker's website today by Matt Buchanan has some interesting observations about our generation's proclivity for sharing. Not much will be new to this class, but I found it a bit discomforting that Buchanan (and supposedly those from whom he gets his input on young folks' attitude) is intrigued by Snapchat, the new-ish social media phenomenon that allows users to share pictures and texts with each other for a short time; after a period of up to ten seconds (the duration is chosen by the sender) the data is deleted from the recipient's phone. Buchanan finds Snapchat a welcome relief from the constant documentation we're expected to engage in:

"Snapchat highlights the power of deletion in resisting the gentle totalitarianism of endless sharing. Deletion pokes holes in these records; it is a destabilizing force that calls into question their authority, particularly as complete documentation of a person’s online identity, which Facebook and Twitter increasingly purport to be. It is the only way to be selective, to make choices, when everything is shared."

The problem is, Buchanan's only focal point is end users; he doesn't consider the possibility that Snapchat's servers are not so forgetful. Indeed, Snapchat's privacy policy tells us just how illusory is its promise of privacy:

"Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is received and opened by the recipient (and after a certain period of time if they don't open the message), we cannot guarantee that the message contents will be deleted in every case. . . . Consequently, we are not able to guarantee that your messaging data will be deleted in all instances. Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user. We also log information about messages, including time, date, and who sent and received the message."

My guess is, after what we've learned so far this semester, most of my classmates are as skeptical as I am about this disclaimer. Once we understand just how much private and public buyers are willing to pay for this data, it's clear that "as soon as possible" is likely better read to say "as soon as we've squeezed as much value as we can out of you."

-- JamieCrooks - 10 Apr 2013

As a follow up, as predicted some more digging (by people with much more tech savvy than I have) has shown that, not only do Snapchat's servers keep our data -- so do the phones that send and received them. The "deletion" that occurs is nothing more than a renaming of the file, which can be found again, renamed once more, and re-viewed. Here are some articles talking about the issue:

-- JamieCrooks - 09 May 2013



Webs Webs

r4 - 14 Jan 2015 - 22:36:15 - IanSullivan
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