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This company invented a weird trick to stop people from taking ephemeral message screenshots

It’s the unspoken law of Snapchat: Thou shalt not screenshot. The whole point of the app is that you can send disappearing pictures and videos that won’t follow you for the rest of your life. Want to make your friends laugh with the ugliest duck face you can make? It won’t become part of your enduring social media narrative, to be perused for years to come.

But not everyone plays by the rules, and taking a screenshot is an easy way to subvert Snapchat’s ephemerality. I myself have a rather nasty habit of taking screenshots of my friends’ sillier pictures — I just can’t handle the hilarity disappearing forever. So what’s a user to do when the product that’s supposed to keep things private has a loophole?

Enter Yovo. The app, built by a secure document sharing company called ContentGuard, has invented a rather clever way to thwart any screenshot attempt. It uses a process called D-fence, where bars move across an image so quickly they don’t impede your perception of it. But if you take a screenshot of it, the bars will appear blocking parts of the photo. Voila! Your sexts are secure.

Yovo is its own standalone social media app — only iOS for now. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with Snapchat itself. In order for someone to view your Yovo, they need to have downloaded the app too. Perhaps when Snapchat finally builds an open API, Yovo could take advantage of it. Or the privacy geeks among us can hope Snapchat considers acquiring Yovo or building a D-fence feature of its own. If it were widely used, it could help stop the kind of leaks like the infamous Snapchat hack of two weeks ago. After all, those pictures came from third party app Snapsaved, which stores Snapchats for later perusal.

The bars are a little distracting at the moment, but Yovo says it’s working on a new version that will speed them up so you barely see them. As it stands, people sending particularly private pictures — yes, like sexts — are likely to be the only ones using it. It’s a hack that gives one extra layer of protection. But for the casual ephemeral messengers among us, the risk of screenshots or leaks isn’t high enough to be worth downloading a brand-new app. Check out the current technology in the demo video below.

[vimeo 108244650 w=589 h=1046]

2 Responses to “This company invented a weird trick to stop people from taking ephemeral message screenshots”

  1. falconfour

    I’m surprised someone doesn’t use the high frequency of today’s LCDs (and especially OLEDs) to just black out large portions of the image at a fast scan rate. Screenshots would only capture a small portion of it, especially if it moves at 100 FPS or so. Use a blurred image as the topmost image and draw alpha channel holes to view the underlying full image. You’d just have to use some very efficient code (wait, does that even still exist today?) to pass the data to the window manager quickly enough, without burning battery life.

    Take this and run with it. I’ve got better things to capitalize on in the EV industry. ;)