Want to know which innovation owns the most popular potential to alter business and politics as we know it? It’s the introduction of technology for Internet Erasers. The new one to keep in mind is called Snapchat. Yes. The exact same technology which allows acned teenagers and inebriated college students to exchange ranking insults and then ‘disappear’ them, may soon be the tool of choice utilized by CEO’s, Senators, mayors and campaign managers who send email messages to one another and then ‘burn’ after reading.
A perfect case in point would be the recent scandal involving the Republican Party’s middle-of-the-road favorite moderate, presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He’s definitely America’s most popular overweight person, a hero in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed much of the coastline of his state on October 29, 2012; a hero because he was willing to put aside past political differences with the Democrats in his state house and in the White House in Washington, D.C. to appeal for the sake of the citizens he represents for federal aid. The charming Christie had gone way beyond being political flavor-of-the-month when he suddenly got caught up in the embarrassing Fort Lee Bridge scandal.
Long story short, the Governor was drawn into a political fight with the New Jersey senate majority leader, Democrat Loretta Wenberg, over a political appointee. Consequently, some of his campaign staff plotted political retaliation via Gmail. Whether encouraged to do so or not, Christie’s top aide, Bridget Ann Kelley sent a Gmail message to her ally at the Port Authority, David Wildstein, according to the Washington Post. “Time for some traffic problems in New Jersey!” she told him. “Got it!” he replied.
What followed, two out of three traffic lines between Fort Lee and Manhattan being closed down from September 9th-through-13th in one endless rush-hour snarl, was scandalous.
The upshot of all this is that, caught, Ms. Kelly resigned her position and the Governor has had a hard time persuading the public, the press, and other politicians that he’s neither partisan nor vindictive. Now imagine an alternate scenario where Kelly and Wildstein swapped photos and barbs of the bridge mayhem before they simply vanished. Had these two bozos used Snapchat, there would be neither a paper trial nor any incriminating jpegs.
The idea of a Snapchat for Gmail might not be as far-fetched as it seems. There’s also Confide, a smartphone app which promises off-the-record messaging that self-destructs. Confide and SecretInk, a confidential service launched on November 13, 2013, both allow users to send an email or SMS which really does self-destruct instantaneously, according to the Guardian.
Now consider the fact that nothing on the Internet is completely safe still. Indeed, according to the Washington Post, Snapchat is scandalized at revelations which show hackers were able to access user identities and phone numbers. And additionally there were cases of users taking screenshots from Snapchat and passing them around. Despite only being in business for a few months, Snapchat is already being used as an instrument of political payback as blackmailers take a screenshot of a text message before asking for hush money, illicit sex or gifting it over to political rivals. This means that there can be, potentially, massive privacy implications in signing up for social networks. New Internet tools muddy waters already rendered opaque in lieu of the NSA Scandal.
Snapchat has already turned down a US$3bn acquisition offer from Facebook, according to the Financial Times. Confide‘s founders Howard Lerman and Jon Brod refuse to talk about takeover offers and get a little stroppy when questioned about making a moral justification for their toy. “Confide is simply a communications platform like email or instant messaging, and we expect the user to comply with all applicable laws.” Any illegal or illicit use of their service is in violation of their terms of agreement, he insists. “The reality is that for any communications breakthrough there is a potential for misuse,” Lerman says.