Ephemeral messages, more commonly known as disappearing or self-destructing messages, are a form of digital communication where the sent message automatically disappears after a particular period of time, leaving no trace of the conversation. These messages are designed to protect the sender by preventing sensitive information (or images) from being permanently stored on someone else’s device or shared without their consent.
One of the first ephemeral platforms to gain widespread use was SnapChat which gained huge popularity by allowing users to communicate discreetly and protect their online privacy. Both Telegram and Whatsapp also have ephemeral messaging features should a sender wish to use them.
Ephemeral messages have some key features that make them different from traditional electronic messages. The defining feature of ephemeral messages is their automatic deletion. Once a message is read, or after a specified period of time, it vanishes from both the sender’s and recipient’s devices, as well as any server or storage systems.
Ephemeral messaging apps also use end-to-end encryption to make sure that content stays secure and accessible only to the sender and recipient, even during transmission. Some platforms also notify the sender if the recipient takes a screenshot of an ephemeral message. This adds an extra layer of protection and incentivizes recipients to not try and override the intent of the ephemeral message as they won’t want to get caught screenshotting it.
Security and Privacy Considerations
Ephemeral messages are not only used by gossiping teenagers. They are also used by people who have to prioritize privacy, such as journalists and whistleblowers. People in fields like healthcare, finance, and law also use ephemeral messaging for sharing sensitive data temporarily.
Their use in organizations and in the course of business raises important security and privacy considerations:
- Screenshot Vulnerabilities: Screenshot detection doesn’t stop determined users from finding ways to capture ephemeral messages. It’s essential to understand the limitations of these kinds of features and seriously weigh up the benefits of sending the information via text versus the risks.
- Regulatory Compliance: Depending on the country or industry, organizations may have to retain certain types of communications for specific periods of time. Ephemeral messages don’t comply with those regulations and will put the organization at legal risk.
- Legal Discovery: Organizations may have to produce electronic communications as evidence in legal proceedings. Ephemeral messages will prevent them from being able to do so and can put them at risk for serious sanctions.
- Data Leakage: Employees could potentially misuse ephemeral messaging to share sensitive or confidential information inappropriately. This can lead to data leakage and compromise an organization’s security.
- Compliance with Record-Keeping Policies: Ephemeral messages conflict with internal recordkeeping best practices, and can lead to gaps in communication records.
- Audit and Monitoring: Monitoring and auditing ephemeral messaging is more challenging than traditional communication methods, making it difficult to ensure compliance with internal policies and industry regulations.
Balancing the benefits of privacy and security offered by ephemeral messages with the potential risks is essential for making informed decisions about whether they should be used for business purposes.
With LeapXpert Nothing is Invisible
While ephemeral messages are a valuable tool for enhancing privacy in digital communication they also pose some serious security risks. Whether your organization chooses to allow them or not, you have to be able to monitor compliance with your internal policy. LeapXpert’s Communications Platform allows organizations to fully audit and monitor employee communications, displaying the real-time status of all messages, conversations, and data sent, and flagging when conditions and rules have been breached. Contact us now for a demo.