At Santa Clara University, “Week 5” sparks a tidal wave of midterm studying stress and a seemingly endless “to-do” list of assignments. Last week during the chaos, I sat in my library study cubicle and surveyed the concentrating students around me. I noticed a peculiar trend. Instead of typing away on term papers or studying lecture notes, students played on their smartphones, the screens forming a sea of flickering yellow. One after another, students posed for pictures with coffee mugs and stacked textbooks, giggling at their shameless “selfie” Snapchats. Snap! Snap! Snap!
Snapchat. It’s photographic documentation at super speed. Since its launch in 2011, the application has seen massive success. In fact, users send an estimated 700 million photos and videos via Snapchat per day. The best part? The photos disappear after an allotted amount of time—or so we think.
Despite its popularity, Snapchat’s privacy issues have slammed national news headlines. Security breach issues first surfaced earlier this year after a hacker website obtained over 4.6 million user names and phone numbers. Two weeks ago, hackers released another overwhelmingly large database of photos, this time accessed through a third-party application. In all cases, users believed that their “snaps” disappeared after opening; however, in our technologically advanced society, hackers managed to make the vanished reappear.
The issue brings up several ethical questions regarding technology and privacy. First, if we willingly share photos, can we blame others when and if the content leaks?
In addition, we can examine privacy itself. Is privacy a right or a luxury?
Finally, what role do technology companies have in protecting our privacy?