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Do Your Snapchats Really Delete After Being Opened?

Snapchat may claim that photos sent through the application are deleted forever, but what really happens to the pictures that you send?

Snapchat, the popular smartphone video, and photo sharing app is marketed on the idea that all messages sent through the app are deleted immediately after being viewed by the recipient. Each photo has a lifespan of up to 10 seconds and then disappears from the app forever. However, the lasting quality of all data uploaded to the Internet has prompted many users to question the legitimacy of this ephemeral claim. Where do sent Snapchat photos, videos, and messages really go? Can they ever truly be deleted forever?

Snapchats Are Saved to Your Phone
According to Snapchat, all photos sent through the app are deleted from the recipient and sender’s phones after they’re opened. Yet mobile forensics students uncovered an element of the app’s code that simply buries the photos, videos, and chats deep within the device rather than deleting them entirely. The photo-sharing app stores media under a folder titled “RECEIVED_IMAGES_SNAPS” and titles each file with a “.NOMEDIA” extension, making it more difficult — but not impossible — to locate the files in question. By changing the files’ extension, a process which can take up to six hours, users can restore their old Snapchats.

Read More: Can Hackers Breach WhatsApp’s Special Encryption?

Snapchats Are Saved on Snapchat’s Servers
Under Snapchat’s privacy policy, all video, photo, and message content is deleted from servers after it’s been viewed by all recipients or after 30 days. While this means that Snapchat doesn’t deliberately retain private message data for longer than necessary, it also means that videos and photos sent from your smartphone can be held on Snapchat servers for a month. In cases where a Snapchat is sent to a friend who’s lost their phone, or simply doesn’t open the message, the lifespan of your 10-second Snapchat has quickly expanded to 30 days.

Users Can Take Screenshots
As a general rule, it’s a good idea to bear in mind the fact that every Snapchat is susceptible to a screenshot. By simply holding down the power and volume buttons simultaneously, Android users can capture the Snap image forever. While this tool can be used innocuously, to grab silly images or cute pictures, it can also be used to save photos against the sender’s wishes. Even regardless of Snapchat’s practices of saving photos to personal devices or servers, Snap users should be conscious of photo and video content for the simple reason that a screenshot or quick photo can preserve a private image forever.