Every day new and different methods are used to meet, share, and interact. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or any other social media channel, there are limitless numbers of ways to make your life an open book. In cases where you’re sharing with family and friends you know in real life, the danger is minimal. But the risk increases when you expand your online world to include people who you really don’t know.
Danger doesn’t necessarily have to be a horror story of an online romance gone wrong or someone being “catfished.” It can be as innocuous as a smiling photograph of you on vacation. Or, it could be an intimate photo that you thought you were sending to someone you trusted. The problem is that the appearance of these images on social media outlets have caused serious unforeseen legal and personal consequences (e.g. losing your job, etc.) for the people who posted them.
Enter Snapchat, which makes all of these issues even more complicated.
What Is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a photo and video sharing app for smartphones. The basic idea is that a user sends a picture that is viewable for up to ten seconds – and then it disappears forever.
Like many social media outlets, you choose who you are connecting with. For those who are concerned that the images they’re sending could somehow become fodder for ridicule or fall into the hands of people they didn’t intend to see it, Snapchat seems like the perfect antidote to avoid those humiliating and sometimes tragic stories we see on a daily basis about Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.
However, as with any kind of risqué behavior, if someone is sufficiently motivated they will find a way to save a photograph that has viewing time limits on it. (Hint: someone can take a screenshot or even photograph the image using another device.) Snapchat is supposed to inform the sender when the recipient has taken a screenshot, but jailbreaking an iPhone gets around that notification.
Although Snapchat was (supposedly) started with the idea of giving its users the freedom to take pictures without having to worry about being embarrassed, it’s quickly turned into a method for people to send naked photos to others.
Legal Ramifications from Snapchat
It really didn’t take long for Snapchat to be used to send naked pictures, which means that the legal issues around these photos are cropping up as well.
In simpler terms, anything you upload to Snapchat can be sold and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it because in the terms and conditions section that so few of us read, you granted them that permission.
As for problems with law enforcement, one incident landed an Oregon teacher in jail for ten days and cost him 18 months of probation after he sent an image of his clothed crotch to an underage student with whom he had a Snapchat relationship. When he came under investigation, images of other teenagers were found on his phone. He resigned from his job but still received jail time and probation.
That story is nothing compared to the consequences that you can face (think child pornography charges) if you’re in possession of images of someone who is not only underage but is also naked. A New Jersey high school was part of an investigation after an underage girl sent a naked picture of herself to a fellow student who saved the image and posted them online for others to see.
Since the picture was from one student to another, this New Jersey case won’t involve jail time or other legal consequences as long as the pictures are deleted.
However, other situations aren’t so easy. If naked pictures wind up in the hands of a person using them for child pornography or implied child pornography, the photos can easily end up splashed across the internet. That it was an image meant for private use for a limited time is irrelevant once the picture spreads across the Web.
Should You Continue Using Snapchat?
Like anything else, continuing to use Snapchat is entirely up to you. Be aware, however, of what might happen to you if your picture ends up in someone else’s hands. Think twice about sending questionable photos of yourself or others to a Snapchat friend, because that “friend” might not actually be a friend at all.