Apple's second attempt at its new iPhone operating system presents a frightening problem for Snapchat users, with a new screenshot feature that, as of right now, makes it possible for creepy users to capture Snaps before they vanish, which totally ruins the point of one of the most popular apps in existence. The new iOS 7 (Beta 2) no longer closes the photo-viewing window in Snapchat after a user attempts to take a screenshot, as spotted by MacRumors's Juli Clover, meaning that no privacy notification gets sent when, say, a creepy guy keeps a photo of a young woman on his phone that was supposed to disappear forever after 10 seconds. Currently, to discourage the saving of Snaps, the app will alert the sender if a screen grab is taken on the other end. Which is important, but, really, the fun of Snapchat is that the picture messages don't last more than a few seconds. But for users who know the loophole, Apple's new iOS turns Snapchat into a stripped down (and we mean stripped down) version of picture texting, which is only going to make the app more rife with all that sexting the teens are supposedly up to on this thing.
This is the kind of miscommunication that could kill Snapchat, whose enthusiasts have already started to freak out a little bit. The whole basis of the mobile social network is the ephemeral message: Snappers can send things without the consequence of a permanent record. The screenshot notification system acted as a sort of safeguard, a rule so that the app's millions of users wouldn't abuse that social compact in posting more than 150 million photos per day. Of course, other workarounds already exist, but the new iOS setup makes this secret screenshot ability the default. And that idea — that anyone can save a photo that's not supposed to be saved — will change the behavior of senders, which will make it all the more difficult to use Snapchat instead of, say, Apple's proprietary iMessage, or even Facebook's clone version, Poke.
So, what's Snapchat to do? Of course, the updated iOS is still in beta, which gives Apple permission to change or fix anything it wants until the operating system gets sent out to the wilds of the Snapchat-using public. Perhaps Snapchat could lobby for the old screenshotting rules? Maybe this was even a mistake. Or maybe it was dastardly move to steal back users.
More realistically, Snapchat will have to figure out another technical way to alert users that they're being watched for more than a couple seconds. The Next Web's Mathew Panzarino is sure that Snapchat developers are already working on that — though, they haven't yet responded to requests for comment. At the very least, the app has some options to fix things, as Panzarino explains: "One way that Snapchat could possibly do this is by getting a message directly from the screenshot API, which is currently private," he writes. "Apple could, for instance, allow developers access to just the 'screenshot taken' confirmation message sent by the system. Or it could check the Camera Roll for a new screenshot-sized photo (there are already apps that do this)." So all is not lost for you freaky Snap-chatters after all.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.