secret.li

Ever use Snapchat and think, “Man this is cool, but why can’t I use this feature on Facebook?” Me neither. But how about this much more probable Facebook-centric query: “Do I have real control over what I post on the Facebook?” That’s something that frequently enters into my thoughts. Today an app was released that kind of answers both of the questions.

The app, Secret.li, is a Snapchat-like service that claims to add much-needed privacy features to the photos you upload to Facebook.

According to Secret.li, it is “designed to create a new environment where photos can be shared via Facebook securely and with the people you choose.” You upload pictures through your iPhone library using the app then choose who on Facebook you want to offer access to these photos. It posts on Facebook a “filtered” version of these pictures, and those who are given access can view fully via a Secret.li viewer that is downloaded on the Facebook platform.

What makes it like Snapchat is that it allows you to choose exactly to whom you want your pictures to go while you can also put filters on it when shared on Facebook. This means you can degrade it for public viewing on someone’s wall, and only those who have explicit access can see the actual photo in all its glory. To make it even more Snapchat-y, you can give photos “timebombs,” which destroy the photos thereafter.

Secret.li CEO Deepak Tewari explained that he created it because on the Internet, “You do not know who’s watching what.” Further, it’s difficult to remember what has been posted over the years. He pointed to websites like Spokeo, which aggregate all public information about people into one stalker-y platform. Secret.li is meant to circumvent this kind of public information about you being shared in the future.

According to Tewari, in a world where private photos get leaked because they are easily accessible, Secret.li is “the prophylactic.” I won’t, though, belabor the metaphor by delving into what specific diseases it can help prevent.

I don’t know if Secret.li can become a Facebook photo posting norm but as a Snapchat clone, perhaps people will latch onto it because it uses Facebook. It’s actual use-value, though, lies in its privacy features, and online privacy is a huge concern, one that is continually growing. A study by Burst Media found that 80 percent of respondents were very concerned with online privacy and the information being diffused online about them. This same study, however, found confusion about what information collected by websites is deemed “personal” and “non-personal.”

So people are worried, but they have no idea the extent of the information being collected about them. In addition, even with these mounting concerns, people aren’t very likely to take steps toward altering their online behavior. Pund-IT analyst Charles King explained that it’s “because of the laissez-faire development environment that has long surrounded the Internet.” People are cognizant that online privacy is an issue, but don’t care (or know) enough to change habits.

Tewari offers a counterexample of a way Secret.li’s privacy features are useful, and may become part of the common online photo posting toolkit. Celebrities, he believes, post photos of themselves but are constantly striving to maintain privacy. These celebrities (Lady Gaga and Rihanna being his examples) could post filtered photos of themselves on their profiles and then only those with express consent can access the actual photos. This example uses Secret.li has both a privacy filter and a “teaser” to these celebrities’ audiences.

If we see this kind of celebrity adoption, perhaps we’ll begin to see more widespread use. But, in all honestly, that seems a bit unlikely. In any case, if Eminem does download Secret.li, I will be happy to note that he’s using a prophylactic.