Apps like Snapchat and Facebook Poke let users send short messages, photos or videos that automatically self-destruct after a few seconds. However, it's actually very easy for a recipient to save some of those messages permanently -- and without the sender knowing.
Both apps will alert the sender if the recipient takes a screengrab of whatever was sent, of course, but by connecting your phone to a PC or Mac, the messages can be secretly offloaded without the sender knowing -- a possibility first reported by BuzzFeed. For an iPhone, all you'll need is a third-party file manager like iExplorer.
For Poke, only videos can be permanently stored in this manner, and only videos that you haven't already viewed. But it's very easy. Once you've installed your file manager, connect your iPhone and you should see a list of your apps. Select the Poke folder, then navigate to Library>Caches>FBStore>315_14_>MediaCache. There you should see every Poke video that you haven't yet watched. (See screencap below.)
From there, all you need to do is drag and drop the files to any other folder on your computer to copy and store them. After that, you can open the file in Poke, let it self-destruct, and the sender will be none the wiser.
Although permanent storage only works for videos in Poke, performing similar steps for Snapchat will let you save both videos and photos.
SEE ALSO: Facebook Poke App Is Frustrating as Hell
While it's a bit surprising that it's so easy to save messages that are ostensibly deleted permanently, it may be a stretch to characterize this file caching as a "vulnerability" of the apps, which are generally intended for casual use. Facebook's official statement on the matter appears to take this stance:
"Poke is a fun and easy way to communicate with your friends and is not designed to be a secure messaging system. While Pokes disappear after they are read, there are still ways that people can potentially save them. For example, you could take a screenshot of a photo, in which case the sender is notified. People could also take a photo of a photo you sent them, or a video of a video, with another camera. Because of this, people should think about what they are sending and share responsibly."
What do you think of the potential for someone to save a Facebook Poke or Snapchat message? Let us know in the comments.