Facebook is testing yet another feature that allows users to set a time for their status updates to disappear after a certain period of time. The feature is currently only available for certain people using the iOS app. Unlike Snapchat, which allows users to set a time limit of only up to 10 seconds for a photo, this new Facebook feature has a range of 1 hour to 7 days.
As Schneier argues, ephemeral messaging is very hard to get right. Thus, until we see evidence to the contrary, I would treat this new feature with as much skepticism as similar apps like Snapchat. This isn’t to say that ephemerality is inherently bad. The article does point out that “We need ephemeral apps, but we need credible assurances from the companies that they are actually secure and credible assurances from the government that they won’t be subverted.”
Until we do have secure ephemeral messaging, the best way to keep private information private is probably to refrain from posting or sending it in the first place. In the meantime, regardless of the security of ephemeral messaging, some messages just shouldn’t be posted at all. For example, unless you absolutely trust everyone on your friend list, a status update such as “I’m heading to Italy for a 2 week vacation” could be an invitation to burglarize your home. Does it matter that such a message disappears after 1 hour? The cat’s already out of the bag.