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Turns out Snapchat, Poke videos don't actually disappear

Videos sent through Snapchat or Facebook's Poke app are supposed to vanish after several seconds -- yet they're still viewable if someone knows where to look.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
2 min read
Snapchat videos vanish after a few seconds -- or at least that's how it's supposed to work
Snapchat videos vanish after a few seconds -- or at least that's how it's supposed to work Snapchat

Snapchat and Poke videos shared with other people are supposed to go poof after a few seconds, but their vanishing act isn't working exactly as advertised.

Snapchat and Facebook's Poke apps are designed for folks who want to share photos and videos with their socially networked friends -- though only briefly. The appeal of both apps is that the photos and videos vanish after up to 10 seconds. That's supposed to mean you can send someone a potentially embarrassing or "sexty" clip of yourself, firm in the belief that it won't stick around for long.

But tests of both apps conducted by blog site BuzzFeed FWD found that the videos can actually be retrieved from a hidden spot even when users think they're gone for good.

As detailed by BuzzFeed, an iPhone user simply has to plug the smartphone into a computer, navigate to the phone's internal storage, and find the folders for Snapchat and Poke where the videos are stored locally. The user can then copy the videos from the phone to the computer to sneak a peek at them. In BuzzFeed's testing, this bug applied only to videos; photos didn't appear to show up.

A Snapchat app is also available for Android users. That app was found to save versions of unwatched videos in the media gallery on Android phones. But a fix for that bug was released earlier this month.

CNET contacted Snapchat for comment and will update the story if we receive any information.

A spokesperson for Facebook told CNET that the company is "still investigating this particular loophole" and sent us the following statement:

Poke is a fun and easy way to communicate with your friends and is not designed to be a secure messaging system. While Pokes disappear after they are read, there are still ways that people can potentially save them. For example, you could take a screenshot of a photo, in which case the sender is notified. People could also take a photo of a photo you sent them, or a video of a video, with another camera. Because of this, people should think about what they are sending and share responsibly.

Snapchat founder Evan Spiegel also told BuzzFeed that it's aware of the problem and plans to fix it. But he added that "the people who most enjoy using Snapchat are those who embrace the spirit and intent of the service. There will always be ways to reverse engineer technology products -- but that spoils the fun!"

Of course, until such time as these bugs are fixed, users of either app may want to hold off on "sexting" any compromising videos just in case they wind up in the wrong hands.

Updated 9:15 a.m. PT with statement from Facebook.