How do self-destructive messages protect conversations?

In this photo illustration taken on November 6, 2020, a user updates Facebook's WhatsApp application on his mobile phone in Mumbai. - WhatsApp on November 6 entered an increasingly tense battle between multi-national giants such as Google and AliBaba for a chunk of India's fast growing digital payments market. (Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP) (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

Modern technology puts privacy at risk. Some information in our text messages is sensitive and should not be stored permanently. Ephemeral or self-destructing messaging apps provide a solution. Unauthorized parties cannot access texts.

Text messages sent via self-destructing apps are automatically deleted after a set amount of time. Within the time limit, messages are permanently deleted. Others let users set a timeframe of up to 24 hours or more for deleting messages. It prevents messages from being accessed after deletion.

Privacy and security

The automatic deletion of messages on both the sender’s and receiver’s devices prevents texts from being accessed by unauthorized parties. Hacking becomes much more difficult when messages aren’t stored. This helps keep your private conversations truly private.

Avoids message clutter

Disappearing messages avoid clogging up your inbox and message history. Once the deletion time is reached, the messages vanish. This helps you keep your texts organized and accessible.

Enhanced control

Users have better control over their information. They decide how long messages are viewable before being erased. This puts users in charge of their privacy.

Lowers risk

If your phone ends up in the wrong hands, self-deleting messages reduce the risk because sensitive information won’t be stored on your device indefinitely. The short lifespan of messages lowers your risk.

Fosters authentic conversations

The impermanent nature of ephemeral messages encourages users to have more authentic, in-the-moment conversations. People may be more relaxed and candid with no record of the chat.

How self-destructing messaging apps work?

Deletion triggers

The apps rely on triggers to activate the deletion of messages. This occurs after a set number of seconds or minutes chosen by the sender or based on policies by the app provider. Some apps require the receiver to activate the deletion manually.

Encrypted transmission

Messages are end-to-end encrypted to prevent unauthorized access in transit. Encryption secures data by scrambling it into unreadable code that requires a key to decipher.

Remote wipe

If the message timer hasn’t expired, the app remotely wipes the message from devices. This deletion occurs on the company’s server. If a user tries to take a screenshot to save the message, the app will delete it.

Temporary storage

Messages are stored temporarily on company servers until the deletion period elapses. Encryption protects data at rest on the servers before being permanently erased.

Notifications and warnings

The app alerts users when screenshots are attempted, and messages are close to expiring. This keeps users informed about the status of disappearing content. If you need more info, check it out

Main differences between ephemeral apps

Deletion timer options

Apps offer various timer settings ranging from a few seconds to a day or longer. Certain apps limit options or customize timers based on message type.

Screenshot/forwarding blocking

Some apps block users from capturing screenshots or forwarding messages to prevent saving. This enforcement varies across apps.

Delete on read capabilities

A few apps delete messages immediately after they are read versus using timers. This heightens message security.

Backing up data

Certain ephemeral messaging apps back up some user data, while others refrain from any data storage once deletion occurs. Backups weaken the privacy benefits.

Group messaging functions

Some apps support group messaging with self-deleting features. Others are limited to person-to-person exchanges.