MOBILE PHONE PHOTO SHARING APPLICATIONS

Abstract                                                               

The use of handheld devices in the recent past has been on the rise. Various companies have created applications for use on these devices to serve different purposes for different audiences. One category of such applications has been mobile photo messaging applications. There have been several of these applications. The most prevalent is Snapshot. Snapshot was among the first applications to enter the market. These applications have been intent to protect the privacy of the users as well as to control the audience exposed to content. In regard to privacy, the most prevalent methods of bypassing the privacy is by taking a snapshot of the screen before the image is destroyed. This paper analyses the usage of three applications as well as three applications. Slingshot, clipchat and snapshot (as well as its children’s version Snapkidz), are the ones studied in this case. The paper analyzes the main weaknesses of the applications as well as the way these applications can be mended.

Mobile Phone Photo Sharing Applications

Introduction

Mobile phone photo messaging applications allow for individuals to transfer and publish digital images from the user’s phone. They may allow for content to be shared either privately or publicly. To allow for the sharing of the photos without compromising the privacy of users, various measures are used. The measures may be automated or in the form of restrictions to users. Mobile photo messaging applications come in different shapes and sizes. Each one is unique in its capabilities. However, they all must have the capacity to either send/share photos to qualify.

Mobile phone photo messaging applications are most famous on the more recent mobile operating systems. A mobile operating system is a mobile platform over which other applications are put on mobile devices. The mobile OS most famous in regard to the photo messaging applications are the android OS and Apple’s iOS. These two are famous based on the fame they have gained and their wider acceptance. They are also more accommodating to secondary applications. Other mobile OS include windows phone OS and blackberry. The symbian OS from Nokia has since been discontinued over insufficiencies.

Slingshot

Slingshot is an application that as rolled out by Facebook. It seeks to appeal to those people who would want a platform in which all people are creators and not just spectators. It also stands to expand the number of users of Facebook above the 1.28 million users (BBC News, 2014). The slingshot application allows one to share a photo with several people at once. It dubs the idea of sending to multiple persons as “slinging”. So typically, you take a photo of a scenario you would like to share and then “sling” it to several individuals. Slingshot allows one to send a photo in either of two formats. First, you may share photos as locked. If messages are locked as saved applications, then the recipient must sling back something in return for them to view your image. Otherwise, the image may be sent as unlocked such that the image is easily viewable by just tapping on the image. For Android users, the application is available at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.facebook.slingshot&hl=en. Apple’s iOS users can get a copy of the application from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/slingshot/id878681557?mt=8 (App Store, 2014).

The slingshot application comes with various features. First, it enables one to share images instantly as they please. The application is easy to use. Second, if one sends you a photo. The application gives you an option of reacting with a shot in return. Third, the application does not allow for third party sharing (carlson, 2014). Once a shot has been shared, it may not be stored or shared with a third party. Instead, as soon as the image is swiped, the image disappears. Fourth, while the images may not be stored, they may remain unviewed for as long as you want. This way, the application allows for one to view the images later if he so wishes (Play.google.com, 2014).

The privacy of the application is enhanced by the application is enhanced by the fact that is disappears the moment the application is closed. The application therefore does not allow for the storage of the content on the phone. The downside of this application is the possibility of capturing a photo image of the content using another camera. In this case, a copy of the image is kept without the knowledge of the user. The image can also stay on the screen as long as the recipient wishes without disappearing. This may be enough to allow the user to share the image with others by showing it to them.

Slingshot has a large audience of users who are especially young people. Despite the fact that it belongs to Facebook, a Facebook account is not required for one to access the application. Like Facebook, it has an age limit of 13 years. The attraction it has gained from users is owed to the fact that the application enables the images to self destruct. The application unlike Facebook also allows for the user to share an image with only a few of their followers. The application also allows for the user to request for an image in return to allow viewership.

Clipchat

Clipchat is slightly similar to slingshot. It allows individuals to share private information in the form of images. This application has an advantage of the capability to self destruct. This implies that the application only allows you five seconds for viewing the photos after which they disappear forever (Iddiction Inc., 2014). This way, the images do not allow for one to forward to other users, store, or abuse. The idea is simply to share with someone you would want to know. The application is available on downloading for the various devices that meet the standards. For Android devices, the application is available at https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.iddiction.clipchat&hl=en while Apple’s iOS devices may obtain the application from https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/clipchat-twitter-snapchat/id587653192?mt=8.

Like slingshot, clipchat has a few features that are unique to it. First, the application allows for pixellation of content. This implies that an image may be zoomed in to view details that would otherwise not be seen. Second, the self destruct feature allows for one to share information they would not want shared to third parties. Third, the application is secure and allows one to store their clips and photos without fear of them being viewed by a third party. The application comes with encryption to protect the images from being viewed by a third party. Finally, the application is fast to use. The application allows for one to share content fast as well as respond to friends messages with a single tap.

Like slingshot, the image sharing application allows for the sharing of private content. The application only allows the recipient to have access to the image for a limited amount of time. After this, the image disappears. Similar to slingshot, the application does not allow for the image to be stored on the phone. The downside is that the image may be taken through the use of another phone. The recipient is then able to share an image that was otherwise supposed to be shared only with the second party. The application is however not easy to compromise and the quality of the second image will be of poorer quality (Reynolds, 2003).

Snapchat

Snapchat is very much like the other two photo messaging applications. Its capabilities are much similar to those of the clipchart application with some variations. It allows one to send images and messages with a set amount of time to view the content. The limit of viewing the image ranges between 1 to 10 seconds. After the limited time, the content disappears. The mobile application is available at http://snapchat.am/ for all devices that meet the standards required.

Like the other two applications, it comes with a range of features. First, the snapchat application allows for you to choose how long you want the recipient to view the content. After the time limit, the image disappears. Second, (probably a downside to the first feature), it allows for the recipient to take a screenshot of the content sent. This however sends a notification to the sender to let them know that a screenshot has been taken. Third, the application allows one to only store what is important to them. If an image is of no value to you, you just let it pass. After a few seconds, it will disappear.

Snapchat is also a good application as far as privacy is concerned. The sender of the image is able t determine how long their image is going to be viewable on the recipient’s phone. After this time, the image disappears on the screen. Like the other two applications, snapchat has the risk of the images being shared being made accessible to a third party without the consent or knowledge of the sender. This is done through taking photo of the image with another phone. The application also allows for the recipient to take a screenshot with his or her own phone. The good part with this is that in most cases, the sender will receive a notification about the snapshot. The application however does not always send the notification and may therefore not be relied upon 100 % of the time.

The snapchat application is the superior of the three applications. It has had a bigger audience. The application is said to be used to send over 700,000 images each day and have traffic of over 500,000 each day (Connectsafely.org , 2013). The application is favored especially by young people who want to share private images in the form of sexting. It has therefore met with some opposition from parents who think it allows for misappropriate content to be distributed between their children. It has an age limit of 13 years. This age limit may however be broken by lying about the age. The application is supposedly a good platform for the abuse of young children through their sharing of content that may not be appropriate with older people. The application however allows parents and other people to report underage children who are using the application. In this case, you only need to send an email to safety@snapchat.com or by going to snapchat and selecting support. This way, parents are able to help except their children from using the application. Snapchat is available on android and iOS (Reynolds, 2003).

Apple has an application that known as Snapkidz which allows for children under 13 years sharing images (Connectsafely.org , 2013). It acts like snapchat in every way. It does not allow children to use it with their real birth information. The application further allows for the storage of photos obtained through the application so that the children may later use them. Apple manages this application and data is not shared with Snapchat.

Recommendations

The three applications are very important in young people’s lives. They should have sufficient control to ensure that the use of the applications is not abused. The applications also need to be checked to ensure that the privacy is absolute. This is however going to be difficult since the most prevalent form of counter to the applications’ privacy systems is based on the possibility of using a secondary phone to take a snap of the images being shared.

In response to the sexting associated with the applications, the information in all three cases may be misused. It is necessary for the companies involved to either put more control on the content shared through the applications or to put a higher age limit to avoid cases of children abuse and to avoid inappropriate content to be shared with children. Accounts found to violate these rules should be held accountable and most reasonably be closed down. This way, people will avoid using the application for improper purposes. On the other hand, companies will clear their names.

The applications should also be controlled for privacy. As seen earlier, all three applications allow for the possibility that the information will be captured through a secondary device. The content may then be used inappropriately. As mentioned earlier, the quality of the image is significantly reduced by when captured with a secondary device. This information may be used to increase the privacy of the application. The application may reduce the quality of the received images beforehand so that the captured image will not have substantial quality to be misappropriated. This will resolve the issue of the privacy. On the other hand, the applications will not be as reliable as they currently are. The quality of the received images will be greatly compromised.

The usage of these applications by children is also worrying. The fact that the children prefer them on the basis of privacy makes them improper. Most children will comfortably use the applications for uses that are inappropriate for their age. This implies that greater control should be put on these applications. There are various ways this can be done. First, the intervention of the government with policies that require all devices to be registered under the name and details of the most frequent user should be done urgently. The applications should then be required by law to only rely on the data provided to allow the usage of these applications.

The creation of Snapkidz is inappropriate. The application allows for the usage by kids below the required ages. It further requires that children enter their wrong ages to enable entry. This may risk both the security of the children and those around them. Images have in the past been used for spying and could also be used as a ground for child abuse. Applications like Snapkidz should be required by law to close down or to have a stricter content management team. This will enable for easier control of the content the children are able to share as well as the information that is put at risk.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the mobile application software intended for sending photos have had a good following. The major audience has been the young people and teenagers. Their main advantages include their tendency to be more interactive than social networks. Most of the applications are also intended for use by individuals who are known to each other rather than by strangers. Compared to other communication platforms, these platforms have a more advanced privacy control level. They only allow for first level sharing of photos after which the image is destroyed and not stored even on the company’s servers. This privacy is however easily overridden by the use of a secondary device to take a snap of the content. This way, the content is available for further sharing. The applications have also been notorious for sharing of content that is inappropriate among children. This has implied that the children are at risk of being abused. Various measures should be taken to control both privacy and access to children. These include better laws that govern the distribution and use of these applications and the control of the quality of the images sent. All said, the applications are of great importance and have had a good reception. If not misused, they could be used for purposes that would be developmental.

References

Connectsafely.org (2013). A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat available at: http://www.connectsafely.org/wp-content/uploads/snapchat_guide.pdf

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