Now You Can Time-Bomb Embarrassing Facebook Photos but Are They Really Gone for Good?

There are a million and one articles warning people to think twice about sharing sensitive or potentially offensive images on Facebook, because what you post now may come back to haunt you later. That drunken night out with friends, for instance, could discourage a future employer who writes you off as an unprofessional party beast who's likely to bring a beer bong to the staff meeting. If only there was a way to share your ill-advised pictures and make them magically disappear before they get seen by the wrong person!

As it turns out, there's an app for that. Secret.li is a new iOS program that lets you time-bomb your Facebook photos so the embarrassing evidence is deleted before it shames you. You just take your photo, pick a safety filter and expiration date, and share it only with the friends you choose.

You will, of course, have to trust that your friends won't DO anything with your potentially risqué image.

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Secret.li is somewhat similar to the texting app Snapchat, in that it's designed for those who want to share time-limited images. Where Snapchat seems custom-built for sexting since it deletes images in a matter of seconds, Secret.li assumes you're okay with allowing your photo to be viewed for a longer period of time. Secret.li self-destructs your images after one hour, one day or one month -- which the founders say makes it appealing to a different demographic than Snapchat:

Snapchat is mainly used by teens for sharing a certain kind of content. The target audience of Secret.li is people of all ages who share photos on FB (sometimes reluctantly) and are worried that these will linger on forever. This is consistent with Secret.li’s timelines of 1 hour to 1 month. It gives these people an easier handle on managing their privacy. (…) Secret.li is designed to put privacy control right back in the hands of the user and enforces the right to be digitally forgotten on each photo that is shared. It addresses the imbalance between publishing which is so easy and privacy which is so obscure.

Secret.li will ping your friends via Facebook to alert them of your short-lived photo, which isn't stored on Facebook's servers. The company is hoping that the visual encryption it uses -- the image-blurring filters that partially or entirely disguises a photo before a recipient chooses to view it -- will eventually be appealing to brands looking to entice more views:

We can really see a huge benefit for brands and celebrities in using Secret.li. For household names, musicians and footballers, Secret.li offers a new way to engage on a personal basis with their fans by offering a sneak peak of their latest album cover, photo shoot or one from their everyday lives. The likes of Twitter and Instagram has brought fans closers to their idols and Secret.li fits in perfectly with this.

It's an interesting app, but I mostly feel the same way about Secret.li as I did about Snapchat: regardless of its features, you shouldn't count on ANY service or setting to ensure the privacy of your photos. If you don't want an image being seen by certain people, you shouldn't share it online. FULL STOP. It doesn't matter if it's time-bombed, because the bottom line is that you can't control what someone does with the image once they have access to it.  

Secret.li reluctantly admits this to be true:

While the application and the platform are built around secure sharing, they will not protect the user against unintended screen capture.

Exactly. These kinds of apps may make it less likely that your boozy topless photo gets turned into an Internet meme, but they can't guarantee that it won't. So by all means, explore those fancy new filters and privacy settings, but keep the golden rule in mind:


What do you think of Secret.li? Will you be trying it out?

Image via Secret.li

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