As social media and internet usage continues to climb at an accelerating rate worldwide, privacy is becoming more of a concern for most users. Persistence of data means that anything posted on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter will remain somewhere in the online world even if one deletes it afterwards. Even personal messages via email or SMS can remain in company servers long after a user deletes them. Your embarrassing photos and messages can never truly disappear. One application: Wickr, is trying to change that, but it’s efforts may be useless.

Courtesy Flickr User marsmet481. Creative Commons

Wickr is basically the Snapchat for adults. Instead of sending funny pictures to friends for a few seconds, Wickr’s aim is to be 100% secure in sending encrypted professional messages which delete themselves after a set time period. It aims to be different by providing uses for business, where the messages are encrypted in a way where even the app developers can not decipher the text. So how does Wickr plan to provide such perfect and impenetrable security? They won’t tell anyone. Because the main algorithm is being kept secret, no one can verify if their coding is really as secure as they claim. I refuse to believe any app, not just Wickr, can ever achieve perfect security.

The reason for my skepticism is that once something is sent electronically, you can not get rid of it even if it “self-destructs”. First, anyone can easily make a permanent copy of the message simply by taking a screenshot of the screen before it disappears. Not even Wickr, with the massive amounts of money it spent on its proprietary encryption  technology can prevent a user from taking a screenshot, which takes only a second to take. Second, the company refuses to make its code open source, increasing the chances of security issues. Some of the most secure software have been open source, where thousands of eyes have scrutinized every line of code for bugs and resolved any issues. With Wickr, only a few programmers have looked at it, so its likely that a few bugs, glitches, and loopholes have been overlooked.

I simply do not understand why this app is spending so much time and money try to be perfectly secure, when that is just impossible. I mean, even the most simpleminded user knows how to screenshot an image. This is just one way to beat the system, and I’m sure people much more tech savvy than I am can come up with cooler ways to beat it.

In conclusion, users should follow the same common sense discretion before posting on Wickr as they would on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Snapchat. “Perfect security” is a marketing gimmick that can never be achieved.


One thought on “Snapchat for Grownups Striving for “Perfect Security”

  1. I can’t believe that this app really exists, and all of the points you made I agree with 100%. People claim that Snapchats just “disappear” and are erased completely forever — but the way I see it, our access to them is just revoked. We have no idea who the developers of the app are: they could have a depository of all of the snap chats ever sent, saved on a server somewhere! Being paranoid is usually a bad thing but in these situations I believe it’s better to be paranoid than to have a private picture or text message in the hands of the wrong people.

    People trust the internet way too easily, and trust that a random app developer can guarantee them “perfect security”. I completely agree with Smit that the idea of perfect security on the internet is a fallacy and a gimmick, and instead just a way to lure in people (who they just see as “downloads”) who are seeking this sense of security and safeness. If you put something on the internet, no matter how or in what way, no matter what privacy settings, you might as well consider it public.

    The internet can get as advanced as anything, but there will still be nothing as secure and private as a real-life person-to-person conversation. Well… Nixon would probably disagree with that 🙂

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