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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 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. The company is still implementing security updates to prevent a recurrence.
Secret.li [No Longer Available]
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.
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.
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.
Available on both Android and iOS, Wickr allows you to put a timer on the life of your instant messages. 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.
Emails, SMS & Web Links
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.
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.
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.
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 [No Longer Available] 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.
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, 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