Already this year the military has suffered the cold-blooded murder of one of its soldiers at the hand of his own wife and her secret lover. The couple, married since 2016, had a one-year-old son.

The departed, Sgt. Tyrone Hassel III, was ambushed as he attempted to enter his vehicle on New Year’s Eve, 2018. Kemia Hassel and her lover, Jeremy Cuellar, were both stationed with the U.S. Army in South Korea, where they had an affair and began to plot the details of Tyrone’s murder. The couple conducted their planning using the message application Snapchat, believing that their messages would not be discoverable by law enforcement given the nature of the app.

I have and use Snapchat because I have young children who use it and want me to use it as well. Snapchat is, of course, for all ages; however, it is more prevalent among the younger generations. If you have heard of programs with which a user can generate messages that are automatically deleted after a specific period of time, then you are already aware of the driving concept behind the Snapchat application.

Snapchat enables a sender to transmit messages and/or photo files to a destination where, once opened by the reader, they will delete themselves at an expiration time value set by the sender. Ten seconds is a typical setting in Snapchat. What is the appeal of such a feature? I can venture no real altruistic benefit of such a feature, but I can tell you why it is all the rage currently.

Sexting

Sexting is practiced primarily by teens. They exchange sexually explicit and graphic messages and photos—usually selfies. The adoption of Snapchat for this purpose was based on the reasonable expectation that a user would be protected by this technology, which could time-delete messages, eliminating the danger of reputation-damaging personal messages or photos leaking out to the general population.

That entire notion flies right out the window with another technological maneuver known as the screen shot. With a tandem push of two buttons, your phone will capture everything that appears on the screen, saving it as a JPEG photo file.

In fact, my own First Daughter saved screenshots of Snapchat messages from her best friend for a year. She then printed hard copies of her favorite ones and presented them to her friend as a pamphlet on her birthday. Made her cry!

The First Daughter (left) and the good friend to whom she birthday-gifted the pamphlet of Snapchat screenshots (photo courtesy of the author).

But now a screenshot can be effectively countered by the sender setting the exposure time to the shortest time setting—one second. It would take a spirited attempt by the receiver to capture those messages, but it can be done. One need only ready themselves in anticipation of an incoming message, prepping themselves in advance to press for a screen capture.