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Does Missouri topless mom case prove Snapchat is pointless?

A Missouri mom is accused of allowing a Snapchat picture to be taken, while she and her underage daughter were topless. The photo is disseminated. She is charged. So Snapchats don't actually disappear?

3 min read
The Snapchat homepage. Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Honestly, they're talking about nothing else in Wentzville, Mo.

A teenage girl took a picture of her mom and her 14-year-old sister in the family's hot tub. Both were topless (although how topless is the subject of much conjecture. No nipples were allegedly visible).

As KMOV-TV reports, the mom says she told the daughter taking the shot to delete it.

Instead, the daughter allegedly propelled it on Snapchat.

This resulted in severe fulmination and the mom being charged with child endangerment.

"It sure appeared that the picture was posed and it certainly had some sexual overtones," St. Charles County prosecutor Tim Lohmar told KMOV. The unnamed mother insists this isn't the case.

Still, this was Snapchat. The photos are supposed to disappear after a few seconds. How can it be that they were circulated so widely that the authorities got involved?

There's a misconception some have about Snapchat. They really believe that its whole purpose is the idea of here today, gone today.

Yet what appears to have occurred in this case is that as soon as the image was deemed to be, well, interesting, a screenshot was taken and the allegedly temporary became permanent.

For some time now, there has been speculation as to whether Snapchats ever disappear at all. In May, Utah company Decipher Forensics insisted that all Snapchats were recoverable.

Simultaneously, companies such as KS Mobile explained that they could make them disappear permanently. Well, as long as you don't have an iPhone.

Still, it's quite hard work to do that. So if Snapchats do have at the very least a zombie life, why is this company supposedly worth more than $3 billion?

I have an unscientifically supported theory.

Snapchat allows those who mainly use it (kids) to feel as if their digital life will be slightly less cluttered.

Most of the things sent on the app -- just as everywhere else on the Web -- will, indeed, be temporary garbage. But with Snapchat, it's garbage that teens don't need to wonder whether to file away, store, or generally clog up their technological arteries with.

Equally, if something truly memorable comes along, the kids know exactly how to save it.

In the Wentzville case, all the details aren't clear. This hasn't stopped the prosecutor from declaring: "This was a mother who made a very poor choice, I don't think she had any intention that this would blow up the way it did, but it did and she only has her poor judgment to blame for that."

Some might imagine that the teenage daughter who allegedly took the photo and Snapchatted it might bear a touch of responsibility too.

Indeed, according to the local police department, last year she underwent court mandated counseling after "taking photographs of herself nude and circulating it (sic) around her high school."

The court papers say that after the Snapchat incident, the accused woman's son "was ridiculed by classmates for the picture of his mother and sister."

In essence, then, Snapchat seems to carry with it the same potential dangers as any other form of technological transmission.

That's $3 billion worth of information for the naked emperor.