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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(s AAPL) now. Android(s GOOG), Windows (s MSFT) and Blackberry(s BBRY) 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.

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

  1. Sheryl Kramer

    I have been using Tigertext for the last year since our hospital requires and provides it since it is one of the few HIPAA compliant secure texting apps on the market. I did download Privatext and can say that it works in a similar way, but unlike Tigertext it is not HIPAA and SOX compliant. Also, the Tigertext interface seems cleaner and quicker to get up to speed on it.

  2. Carly Damiano

    I wonder what they’ll come up with next! This is truly a revolutionary tool. I love the concept, and I have to say it was executed beautifully. In an army of text messaging apps, Privatext is a general!

  3. This new Privatext app seems to correspond to the nowadays needs of private communication, given that users from all the world feel unsecure and unprotected. This kind of app will allow us to save data from undezired followers and to keep important information safe.

  4. So an app from a no name company that claims its secure we are supposed to trust when companies 1000000x the size have been ordered to hand over information. Hmmmm. I wouldn’t be surprised if in 3 months we find out the owner of the app is selling our info to companies or sharing our info to the government and world. If you have something private to share do it face to face not an app that claims its private.

    • Alan D

      Hey Tom
      I was just reading their press release and it seems to answer your question…

      According to an evaluation of Privatext by Decipher Forensics, a leading technology security company, testing showed that no images or text messages sent using the application could be recovered after being deleted. The report concluded that all conversations made within Privatext are private and unrecoverable.

      • Hey Alan,
        I did see something like that but it did also say that messages are sent to a server whoch erases itself. I believe the way the prism program or something a hacker could put together works by grabbing messages before they are relayed through a server or directly from the sources. I don’t think if the nsa wanted to they would have any trouble grabbing all the information they wanted. Also decipher forensics say it isn’t being saved but what about screen grabs or a change that can be made to the system todat that will store everything and be sold for big bucks. How else will an app make money with a free app? The only way currently spam us with messages or sell our info. I hope I’m wrong but we shall wait and see. For now ill just use the phone or write a letter. The only way most businesses will allow you to communicate also.

        • Ryan K

          It says all over their website they offer enterprise solutions, which is how they monetize.
          In all my time on this site I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone so misinformed and angry at a new application.

    • Screen grabbing does work in the app so I guess you won’t be entirely sure if the other party will just screen grab and save/share that. Also what’s the difference between this and snap chat aside from snap chat being out shorter but having million more users. Privatext first was released end of 2011 or beginning of 2012 if I remember correctly so I would also tell the writer of the article that this didn’t launch in the wake of the NSA scandal but years before with no luck.

      • Alan D

        That was a beta version. Almost every app company has a beta version they submit to Apple to make sure it will get approved by iTunes Connect before they go forward with it.
        Tom, do you follow tech or are you just here to spam?

  5. Kevin C

    Does this not help potential terrorist communications? I for one have nothing to hide and don’t feel the need to use auto distruct messaging….