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This message will self-destruct in five seconds … is a well-known line from one of the most popular spy movies ever made, Mission Impossible. Who would have thought that today, what was once in the realm of fiction is now reality? Placing a shelf life on emails, text messages, IM chats and even photos now appears to be the future of personal communications.

I can think of many instances when I would have preferred to have my messages auto-deleted once I had read them or used them in the manner I wanted to. Many messages sent over telecommunications media serve no purpose after a specific period of time. Hanging onto them actually increases the chances of them falling into the wrong hands, so self-destruction services therefore make a lot of sense.

The following are some of the best self-destructing social media services that are proving quite popular.

Self-Destructing Photos and Videos

Snapchat

Snapchat is without a doubt the most popular self-destructing service for photos and videos. The instant messaging app is available on both Android and iOS. Shared photos can only last for about ten seconds. This self-destruct feature has made it very popular with users. If you are looking to share photos that you want to vanish quickly, Snapchat does a good job.

If you decide to try out Snapchat, take note that the service was recently hacked and several million accounts compromised 4.6 Million Snapchat Usernames & Phone Numbers Leaked; Here's How To Check Yours 4.6 Million Snapchat Usernames & Phone Numbers Leaked; Here's How To Check Yours Snapchat has had a security breach that affects a huge number of its users. Usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million users have been leaked on the website SnapChatDB.info, which has now been suspended. Read More . The company is still implementing security updates to prevent a recurrence.

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Secret.li

Secret.li is a handy iOS app that allows you to exercise better control over your Facebook photos. The app allows you to decide who can view your photo. You can also set a self-destruct timer for the image to delete itself. We are yet to see an Android version but the company says we can expect one soon.

secret.li

Tweets

TwitterSpirit

Spirit for Twitter is a free web service that allows you to send Tweets that self-destruct after the specified time period lapses. You need to give the app access to your Twitter account and after that, it monitors your Tweets for a special hashtag. The hashtag is in the form #20m where the alphabetical symbol denotes the time reference. This could be m for minutes, h for hours or d for a specified number of days. Thus, if you send out a Tweet with the hashtag #20m, the service will delete the Tweet in 20 minutes.

spirit

Instant Messaging Apps

Having a time limitation on instant messages is growing in popularity. There are now several instant messaging apps with self-destruct capability.

Wickr

Available on both Android and iOS, Wickr allows you to put a timer on the life of your instant messages Wickr Brings Secure Messaging And Snapchat-like Message Destruction To Android Wickr Brings Secure Messaging And Snapchat-like Message Destruction To Android With the recent NSA scandals, many people have lost confidence in the privacy of their communications; Wickr is the app to change that. While it has been on iOS for a while, the Android edition... Read More . The developers have taken the trouble to improve security through high level encryption that reduces the risk of eavesdropping. Like Snapchat, it also supports images and video, but with the added advantage that the recipient cannot view chat screen shots.

Other similar apps include Frankly Messenger and Ansa.

wickr

Emails, SMS & Web Links

mxHero Toolbox

mxHero is a Chrome extension that improves the functionality of Gmail. One of the nifty ways it helps keep your sent emails safe from prying eyes is to convert the email into an image. Once the email recipient reads it, it simply vanishes into thin air. This is definitely something to try out if you are concerned about your Gmail account being hacked.

mxhero

SecretInk

As the name suggests, this handy application allows you to send emails, SMS and web links that will simply vanish or become inaccessible after a specified time period. The service is relatively new, having only launched in November 2013 but it is quickly gaining popularity due to its amazing features.

secret-ink

Notes

If you would like to send notes with a self-destruct option, there are services for that as well. One of these is Privnote that deletes a note once it has been read by the recipient and notifies you immediately via email. Another alternative is Destructing Message which in addition to deleting read messages features a countdown timer.

privnote

Cookies

No… these are not biscuits. Cookies are small code snippets that store our browsing session information. For example, cookies allow you to remain logged into a website. Unless you regularly clear browser cookies, it is possible for a hacker to access confidential information such as login usernames and passwords. Self Destructing Cookies is a Firefox web browser add-on. Once you install the add-on, it deletes all the stored cookies as soon as you close an open tab.

firefox-self-destructing-cookies

Are Self-Destructing Messages Really The Future?

With the growing public concern and outrage at government spying antics such as the recent NSA spying scandal Who Is Fighting On Your Behalf Against The NSA And For Privacy? Who Is Fighting On Your Behalf Against The NSA And For Privacy? There are several Internet activism groups who are fighting on your behalf for privacy. They are doing their best to educate netizens as well. Here are just a few of them that are incredibly active. Read More , it does appear that self-destructing services are going to become very popular going forward. However, I must issue a caveat, while self-destruct services will delete your confidential photos, chats, emails and other communication; they are not the panacea for complete privacy. You still have to be wary of ISPs that log your activity, malicious software that installs on your devices and surveillance by spies.

Have you ever used any of these self-destruct services? Which other similar services do you recommend? Please let us know in the comments.

Image Credit: nicubunu.photo via Flickr

  1. Mohammed Adeeb
    January 28, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I Got an idea - Take a Quick screenshot to preserve the self destructive message.
    :D

  2. Luca
    January 27, 2014 at 9:39 pm

    GREAT and very useful list, thorough research. Just a suggestion: it would be phenomenal with a follow-up piece on open-source solutions for digital certificate generation/distribution and 2-factor authentication. Keep these terrific standards !

    • kihara
      January 28, 2014 at 5:36 am

      Glad you like the piece! I will look into your suggestion.

  3. dragonmouth
    January 27, 2014 at 8:05 pm

    "This message will self-destruct in five seconds …"
    Actually, that is a quote from a TV series on which the movies are based. The TV series predates the movies by 30 years.

    • kihara
      January 28, 2014 at 5:37 am

      Really? That's interesting. I must admit I didn't know that, thanks!

  4. Pete Treggia
    January 27, 2014 at 7:20 pm

    Quite interesting trend. A relatively new website service (www.yoot.ag) enables you share content-in-context (movie, song clips etc) through anonymous SMS links posted directly to peer mobile phones, and uses time or views stamps too.

    • kihara
      January 30, 2014 at 7:31 am

      I've checked it out but it looks like the free trial only offers one free video message.

  5. PRISM 916
    January 27, 2014 at 6:22 pm

    Actually this is all pretty much a lie. Those services keep copies of all the correspondence that goes through them even though they are not publically available after they "self-destruct," they are still sitting on the servers. So anyone who puts stock in these services as privacy are fooling themselves.

    Here's a thought: how about you talk to the person face to face rather than texting them? That way they get to see you and talk to you, and the only electronic evidence is from cameras in the NSA van parked on the street.

    • kihara
      January 28, 2014 at 5:35 am

      Yes you are right, I said as much in my conclusion.
      On your second point, that's not a practical suggestion.

  6. jkendal
    January 27, 2014 at 5:16 pm

    I'm willing to bet a substantial amount of money that the possibility of information traveling between servers on the internet that can be described as 'self-destructing' is close to zero.

    • kihara
      January 28, 2014 at 5:32 am

      You are right. These services will prevent your communication from being accessed by regular people with too much interest in your private affairs. But, obviously and as noted in my closing, they can not prevent a determined individual or entity from accessing your private communications.

  7. rhettmcnulty
    January 27, 2014 at 4:50 pm

    With http://www.getyounity.com all your shared files; photos, videos, music and documents 'self-destruct.'

  8. Ion P
    January 27, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Wow! I feel like being James Bond or so.

    • kihara
      January 28, 2014 at 5:28 am

      It does make you feel a bit like that doesn't it :)

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