Snapchat, the company whose smartphone app offers iPhone and Android users the ability to send "temporary" photos, isn't particularly concerned about a study showing that the images - sometimes sexual in nature - can be recovered.
"We're really not paying much attention to it," Snapchat Vice President for Communications Mary Ritti told U.S. News in a brief phone conversation.
A review of the app posted on the website of Utah technology firm Decipher Forensics says metadata of image files are stored on phones and can be reconstructed.
"Each of the images within the received_image_snaps folder had a .NOMEDIA extension appended to the end of the file name," wrote study author Richard Hickman. "This was likely done to prevent the images stored within this directory from being placed in the gallery or from being scanned by the media store. AccessData's Forensic Toolkit recognized the .NOMEDIA extension that was appended to the end of the file name and ignored it, displaying the images."
Recovering Snapchat photos isn't a cinch yet, the study notes. iPhones were not used for the research and the author used "known facts" about photo transfers between two accounts.
Ritti declined to refute the study's findings. "I mean, it's forensic software," said Ritti. "The easiest way to save a photo," she noted, "is to take a screenshot of it."
Snapchat boasted 150 million daily photo shares in April, according to the technology blog All Things D, dwarfing the 40 million photos shared daily on the popular website Instagram.
Users who send photos with the app can set a timer to make an image expire in mere seconds. "Snaps are deleted from our servers after they have been viewed by the recipient," Ritti clarified in an email.
Snapchat is increasingly popular among teenagers, some of whom send nude photos to one another using the service. "The minute you tell someone that images on your server disappear, everyone jumps to sexting," Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel laughingly told TechCrunch last May.
Ritti declined to say if the company could recover photos that involve potential crimes. "We're not commenting on that now," she said. A guide for parents posted on Snapchat's website says the company often cannot retrieve images.
"If you wish to preserve evidence of the on-going receipt of illicit messages, leave the messages unopened and contact law enforcement," the guide says. "Unopened messages will expire after 30 days, but prior to that, they can typically be retrieved by law enforcement."