Disappearing-message apps may not protect privacy in divorce

Over the past several years, family law attorneys have been warning their clients about the pitfalls of digital communication. The face-to-face conversations of the past have been largely supplanted by emails, texts, cellphone calls and posts on social media sites.

There is nothing wrong with these communication methods, per se, but they do leave a trail – a retrievable record of things said and done. It’s no wonder that digital communications are increasingly being used as evidence in divorce and child custody cases. Digital discovery is a two-way street, however, and each spouse’s attorney may try to obtain copies of the other spouse’s digital communications.

If you were aware of these dangers and consider yourself to be fairly tech-savvy, you may have already tried some workaround apps such as “Snapchat” and “Cyber Dust.” These disappearing-content apps allow users to send a message or picture to someone else that will automatically disappear after a short time (less than 10 seconds or up to 30 seconds). The apps offer more privacy than traditional texting, but they offer less security than you might think.

Snapchat’s messages seem to become lost to the ether but they actually stay hidden on the phone. As such, they can be retrieved by someone with a little technological know-how. Moreover, those who receive Snapchat messages have the option of taking a screenshot, thus preserving what would otherwise be lost.

Cyber Dust is more secure, in that messages are never saved in a cache. They are stored in the device’s RAM so a message never makes its way onto a hard drive. However, message recipients can still take screenshots on certain devices.

If you are going through a divorce or sense that one is on the horizon, please know that digital communication almost always leaves a trail, and that what you put in writing could potentially be used as evidence in your case. As such, please be cautious about what you send and how you send it.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Dust to Dust: Will Disappearing Text Apps Revolutionize Divorce?” Natalie Gregg, July 28, 2014

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