WASHINGTON - You may be familiar with apps like Snapchat that claim to delete messages as soon as they are read. But another app is seeing a spike in use by high-profile government officials and politicians in Washington.
It has been reported that some members of Congress, White House staffers and other government officials are simply pulling out their cellphones and sending an encrypted text, even if it contains sensitive information.
The Confide app has been around for a few years and was initially launched to help people in business have more secure communications, so this particular app was never really marketed to teenagers.
This is how it works – when someone sends you a message, the text stays covered until the recipient drags their finger across the words. The app claims the message deletes once it is read and if you try and take a screenshot, the message will also delete. The app creators claim none of the data is stored on any server.
However, intelligence officials have recently revealed they have seen a spike of government officials using encrypted messaging apps like Confide for things such as leaking information to the press.
One D.C. area technology expert worries these apps may allow government officials to think it is okay to behave unethically, which could catch up to them.
“People are using the app to actually get information out that they may not want to have their fingerprints on,” said Pete Erickson, the founder and CEO of Modev. “While relative to our democracy, I think sometimes that is a good thing. But relative to holding people accountable that need to be accountable for their communications, that is challenging.
He added, “If you are under oath, you have an obligation to tell what you talked about. A little bit like Michael Flynn and the discussion. He had a phone conversation and had to be truthful about what he said. The same thing applies to what you wrote in an app, even if that app was ephemeral and that data disappeared. I would say that ethics still apply to being truthful, to holding up an oath. All of those things still apply regardless of the application that exists.”
There are obvious security concerns with apps like Confide, which Erickson compared to the Hillary Clinton email hack during her campaign and the controversy over her use of a personal email.
Erickson said even though the app claims to have "military grade security," nothing on the internet these days is 100 percent safe.