Burn after reading: Privatext messaging app allows secure texts, pictures to self-destruct

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Knowing that intelligence agents could be collecting and storing your private communications is disturbing. But if you’re not quite ready to retire to a remote cabin with no internet connectivity, there are a variety of private texting apps that boast being able to hide communications from prying eyes. The latest is Privatext, which promises secure text and photo messages that self-destruct.

Privatext iOS appThe app officially launches on Tuesday, but is available on the iOS App Store now. Android, Windows and Blackberry versions are coming “soon,” the company said. Using end-to-end encryption, the app allows users of the service to send text messages and picture messages back and forth that will be deleted. Message can be set to expire automatically after a certain period of time, read or not. Or, once read, the messages are deleted from both the sender’s and the recipient’s device and Privatext’s servers.

But that’s not all: messages or pictures you wish you had not sent can also be deleted before the recipient has read it, assuming you act in time.

Apps like Privatext — and Wickr and TigerText and others — are increasingly useful in an age where face-to-face conversations aren’t always convenient, and where the chance that messages could be intercepted or accessed after the fact is a very real possibilityApple has claimed that messages and photos sent through its iMessage system are totally encrypted and cannot be decrypted by Apple (though questions have been raised about whether some iMessage content can be access through other avenues).

Privatext claims that “all conversations made within Privatext are private and unrecoverable” — the implication being that if, say, a law enforcement agency were able to get ahold of your iOS device, it couldn’t download past messages sent through the app.

Other privacy features of Privatext:

  • Besides the standard password to access your account, an extra password can be set specifically for reading texts or seeing picture messages.
  • The app doesn’t access your phone’s contacts list.
  • Photos sent within the app are not saved to the device.
  • Users don’t have to use or expose their real name while messaging — users are identified by a PIN code.
  • Messages just can’t be saved or forwarded; the PIN code of sender is hidden in case of a screencap attempt.

The app is free to use for individuals. Privatext makes a paid version for businesses.

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