Back in the day, a picture was said to be worth a thousand words. It was shot, printed, framed and shared in one’s own home. But now with cameras in smartphones, a picture can be taken and sent across the world in a matter of minutes. Then, it can be passed along from one phone to another. But now this is about to change with the popular iPhone app, Snapchat.

Users can now take a picture from their phone, send it and then control how long the photo message is visible; this can last between one and 10 seconds. Afterwards, the picture will then disappear. If the recipient tries to utilize the iPhone feature, it will take in the image of what is on the screen and then a sender is notified, according to The New York Times.

So why is this a good thing? Think Sexting.

snapchat

According to the Apple App Store, Snapchat’s app description does not exactly mention sexting but it does include images of skimply dressed women. The app comes with a 12 and older users warning and cautions about “mild sexual content or nudity.”

Conversations on Twitter suggest that young people use the app to swap photos with friends but there are references to its less than innocent uses.

Evan Spiegel, a Stanford University student who created the app with a friend, could not comment about it and said in an e-mail to the New York Times that he was “completely absorbed with end-of-year projects at school.”

Not liking that answer, the paper asked Michael Fertik, chief executive of Reputation.com, an online reputation management service, whether or not people could feel protected on Snapchat. He did say that it does include challenges for those who want to breach confidentiality of an exchanged image.

Fertik said, “We know that friction is a very powerful tool to deter people from taking things that are meant to be private and sharing them. It’s probably impossible to completely deter people, but adding friction in a second-to-second environment — like sexting — can be very powerful.”

Questions About Snapchat

While it sounds like an interesting idea, questions linger about Snapchat. Does a Snapchat image really go “poof and disappear” in a just a few seconds? Even if it doesn’t, there’s still the possibility that someone will take a photo of the smartphone screen from another camera.

There’s also the question of whether or not Snapchat is trustworthy. Its privacy policy says in attempts to quickly erase photos from the servers, it “cannot guarantee that the message data will be deleted in every case.” Just to add some more concern, it also says,  “Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user.”

That doesn’t sound trustworthy to me.

Snapchat isn’t the first app to help people from doing dumb things on a smartphone.

Remember Tiger Woods and his texting, which caused some trouble? A company named Tigertext created an app that could delete text messages after reading them.

While people assume the risk that texts are shared, they want them to be safe. This may not be the case on Twitter, where some young people are posting their Snapchat usernames so they can receive photos.

But is sexting really that rampant among teenagers? Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist with the Pew Research Center, answered, “What motivates teens is what motivates anyone who does this: You want to be in a relationship, you want to be desired, you want to be cool, or wild.” She also said, “Solving the problem is always a bit of an arms race; we have technology that allows us to do something, then we have to create the technology to help protect us.”

Maybe quickly deleting the evidence isn’t such a bad thing but why even start is the perhaps the bigger question.