Messaging apps can amass a lot of user data over time including everything from personal photos and videos users have shared to records of who they talk to most, where they’ve been, and what online financial services they use. Over the last few years, more and more of these messaging apps began to offer end-to-end encryption to win over users who want privacy at least as much as they want to gab candidly with friends.
Today, one of the most popular encrypted chat apps, Viber (which is owned by Rakuten Inc.) rolled out what it calls “secret messages,” to give users even more control over their communications. The feature lets users designate which photos or videos stay in the archives of a chat before they hit “send.” Viber already let users delete a conversation from both their own phone, and that of recipients’ phones.
The new, secret messaging feature lets users set a timer for images they want to share, but that they don’t want to be included in the archives, in a Snapchat-like manner. A photo can be sent to a recipient with a preset view time of 1, 3, 7 or 10 seconds. After that time is up, the recipient has a record that something was shared, but they can no longer see the photo.
A video can be sent on Viber now with the option for a recipient to be able to view it just one time before it disappears from the archive. The secrete messages feature works for group or one-to-one chats using Viber on iOS or Android devices.
As of last month, Viber reportedly surpassed 800 million registered users and 260 million monthly active users. The app competes with other encrypted chat platforms including Edward Snowden-endorsed Signal, WhatsApp, Line and Kakao Talk, to name just a few.
The new, secret messages feature in Viber may be welcome but it’s not exactly groundbreaking. Line and Kakao Talk, for example, offer something similar. Line has a timer, much like Viber’s for still photos. And Kakao Talk deletes messages after they have been read. Snapchat, of course, made ephemeral messaging mainstream.