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Open thread: for Snapchat's ad plans 'ephemeral does not mean anonymous'

There are a number of social apps promising anonymity or ephemerality – the latter meaning self-destructing content, from messages to photos – yet also offering their services for free.

When the time comes to make money from advertising, that presents a problem. Today’s long read comes from Brett Goldstein on Medium, with his Snapchat Night Vision: Ephemeral Does Not Mean Anonymous article.

With Snapchat kicking off its advertising program recently, Goldstein poses the question of how it could make more money by targeting ads to specific groups of users “if the content necessary to segment users in the first place is deleted”. His conclusion: it’s easier than you might think.


The most valuable information is actually the content you generate, not a stream of longitude and latitude measures. To capture the information stored in your snaps, Snapchat could run each snap you send through a gauntlet of metadata extractors in the minutes and hours before it is deleted.

Yes. You read that correctly: Snapchat can analyze the crap out of your pictures before they delete them. In fact, Snapchat might already be doing this.

Obligatory caveat: it might not. But the potential for analysing text and speech, background sound, faces and other image elements is clear. Is this something we should be thinking harder about for a whole range of apps, not just Snapchat?

The comments section is open for your views on this story, as well as on some of today’s other tech talking points:

  • Adobe is regretting wading into the #GamerGate controversy. “We are not and have never been aligned with Gamergate. We reject all forms of bullying, including the harassment of women by individuals associated with Gamergate…”
  • Could there be more trouble ahead for Google in Europe? Incoming digital commissioner Guenther Oettinger: “If Google uses and processes intellectual property from the EU, the EU can protect this property and can demand a charge…”
  • Apple is pledging to give away $100m of iPads to underprivileged US schools, but PandoDaily isn’t keen: “These kids don’t need tablets, they need food. Teachers don’t need SmartBoards, they need smaller class sizes…”
  • LG has some positive news to report on smartphone sales: it shipped 16.8m in the last quarter. “LG Mobile… saw its quarterly shipments jump 39 percent year-on-year and 16 percent on the previous quarter of business.”
  • Interested in virtual reality? You might like Zero Point, a film about virtual reality by Condition One. Although the caveat is you’ll need an Oculus Rift headset to watch it on.

What other stories have you seen this morning? Make your recommendations in the comments section, and join the debate.

Open Thread is the successor to the existing Boot Up column. We’re experimenting with its format all this week, and welcome feedback on that too.

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