Asbury Park Press article…Keith Dunn Interviewed….”With great popularity, great concerns grow for Snapchat app”

January 4, 2013 at 8:26 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This article is from the Asbury Park Press in NJ.  Written by Alesha Williams.

How often does 17-year-old Caroline Moore use the photo and video messaging app known as Snapchat?

“Pretty much all day,” every day, like most of her friends, says the Colts Neck High School senior: They snap photos of themselves making weird faces. Of oddball items they find on store shelves. Of their pets’ antics, the teen says.

All that snapping has added up to a whopping 1 billion photos shared on the app since its founding in 2011.

But as fast as Snapchat’s popularity has spread, so have concerns that it isn’t all fun and games.

While the app features a timer that appears to delete photos in a matter of seconds, experts say that feature may encourage ‘sexting’ and other behavior that kids would otherwise avoid for fear of leaving a permanent e-record. Worse, tech reports have been abuzz this month with news of a workaround through a PC connection that allows users to save Snapchat video without notifying the sender.

Keith Dunn, a former Cumberland County detective on the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force who now offers online safety programs for kids, says he’s seen Snapchat issues cropping up already in the schools with which he works, with students as young as the third grade taking revealing photographs.

“They’re like, ‘Hey, I can take this photograph and it will be deleted. You see me, it goes away, it won’t be a big deal.’

“The big problem is that kids learn (how to manipulate technology) as fast as technology changes,” Dunn said. “And what I’ve found as a detective … sexual predators learn even faster than the kids. Two seconds, and a girl could be victimized for the rest of her life.”

The fine print in the app’s privacy policy says it does not guarantee photos’ deletion.

Founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy were unavailable for comment about the concerns. But the company says on its blog that the app encourages “sharing authentic moments with friends,” rather than carefully cultivated images users might post on sites like Facebook and Instagram, where images tend to remain on display.

 

“It’s not all about fancy vacations, sushi dinners or beautiful sunsets,” their blog reads.

It’s what Shore area young people claim they like most about the app, in addition to the sense that someone would have to go out of their way to save their snaps. Viewers can save screen shots of a photo or video but the sender is typically notified by Snapchat when this occurs.

“I like the fact that you can send pictures of yourself you wouldn’t normally and they disappear after a certain amount of time,” said Kerri Bridgman, an 18-year-old senior at Wall High. “Your friends think they’re funny but it’s not something you would want everyone to see.”

She says she receives snaps four or five times a day, more than she sends them — like the video of a friend’s chair collapsing or photos of friends wrapping their hair around water bottles to look like the Dr. Seuss character Cindy Lou Who. Friends often send snaps home from college or will send a snap of what’s going on in the cafeteria to someone who’s in the gym.

According to a blog post by Spiegel, most of the users are high school students “using Snapchat as a new way to pass notes in class…We saw peaks of activity during the school day and dips on the weekends.”

And she and her friends feel safe doing it, Bridgman says.

“You’re picking who you send to,” Bridgman said. “You’re putting the trust in them that they’re not going to show to other people.”

Most important, 18-year-old Olivia Hayes, also a Wall senior, says she wouldn’t send pics of something she would seriously regret, anyway.

“I mean, I guess there’s always going to be those kids that (send racy messages),” Hayes said. “But it’s not like I’m sending anything that, if it was to be shared, I’d be so embarrassed about.”

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