Representing one potentially big leap for online privacy advocates everywhere is Wickr, a free messaging app that allows users to determine how long the message — text, image, audio, or video — exists in online space. The lifespan of the message can last from one second to six days, and the countdown begins as soon as the receiver opens it. Once the timer reaches zero, all traces of the message disappear. Co-founder Nico Sell says she and her team were inspired by self-destructing communications like those in the TV show Mission: Impossible.
What’s the Big Idea?
It’s common knowledge — or should be — that everything an individual does online is stored somewhere, potentially forever, by one or more third parties. Law professor Fred Cate says that there aren’t many privacy protections when it comes to sharing data online, and individuals can’t do much about it. However, he says, “There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about this idea that you ought to be able to sort of overcome your past…We’ve all sent intemperate emails we wish would have disappeared.” The Wickr team hopes to eventually use its code’s destructive powers on e-mails, phone calls, and Facebook posts.