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Mission Possible: Self-Destructing Messages and Photos

Mission Possible: Self-Destructing Messages and Photos
Photographs by Yuji Sakai, Eric Reichbaum; Illustration by Thomas Meimarides

This week a team of data security experts unveiled a new mobile app called Wickr. The app offers what its developers describe as “military-grade” encryption for data, but it also does something else: It allows users to make text messages, photos, and videos self-destruct. Messages sent through Wickr totally and irretrievably disappear from their recipients’ phones after a set period of time. Senders can customize the self-destruct deadline to be anything from six days down to a second.

There’s clear logic to this. After all, when an embarrassing text or photo goes public, it isn’t usually because someone has intercepted it. More often it’s because the recipient shared it or forwarded it to a few friends, each of whom forwarded it to a few of their friends, and so on to the point of infamy. An app such as Wickr is an attempt to nip the process in the bud before something awkward can blossom into virality.