What Employers Can Do About Self-Destruct Text Messaging Apps in the Workplace

23 Jun

Text messaging apps are available that cause messages to self-destruct after a certain period of time.

It is becoming easier than ever for people to use their smartphones and tablets to document discussions in the workplace. Employers are starting to encounter issues with mobile devices in regard to workers using messaging apps that cause texts sent through them to automatically delete after a set time limit. Companies can make policies stating what can and cannot be sent through mobile devices in the workplace, and establish procedures for what to do if issues do occur. In fact, it might be a good employee management strategy for employers to encourage workers not to use their own devices at work, as it can be legally and ethically risky for an employer to ask to see workers' personal devices to look at text messages.

Know Where the Danger Is
There are numerous apps on the market that automatically cause messages sent through them to self-destruct. Snapchat may be the most well-known, but, according to The Business Journals, there is a similar app called TigerText that even allows users to send each other cloud storage files. The app encrypts the messages, which expire after a set amount of time. Technology news source Gigaom reported another app, Privatext, also uses encryption to keep messages private, and these texts or pictures automatically delete after a period of time even if they aren't read. 

Employers should also be aware that the latest operating system from Apple – iOS 8 – will have a self-destruction function for pictures and video messages as well, according to CNN. These files can self-destruct in just a few minutes, which Apple says is meant to keep space open on the devices.

Deleted Text Messages Aren't the End
It's true that text messages have been traditionally hard to bring back once they have been deleted, but that's not always the case anymore, according to CIO. Paul Luehr, who has worked as a federal prosecutor and the supervisor of the Federal Trade Commission's Internet fraud program, told CIO in certain situations forensics experts can retrieve deleted messages. Luehr even said his firm just had a case where they recovered 8,000 text messages – more than a year's worth of messages – and that it's now common for texts to be part of court cases. Luehr noted it is all about the app's software and the phone models involved in the situation.

For example, during the examination into allegations that Miami Dolphins player Richie Incognito bullied one of his teammates, a National Football League investigator was able to uncover deleted text messages between the players. 

Employers should establish policies prohibiting workers from using these apps in the workplace in regards to work-related files. According to Luehr, it can be costly for hire mobile forensic investigators to dig through devices and messages looking for evidence to an investigation. It is always better for employers to be proactive at preventing issues in the workplace rather than reactive when a situation occurs. 

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