Police Can Peek at Snapchat’s Vanishing Photos

Criminally minded Snapchatters, beware

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Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg / Getty Images

People take pictures in front of of the headquarters of the photo sharing app SnapChat on the strand at Venice Beach in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on August 14, 2013.

A photo opened through Snapchat will vanish from the user’s screen after 30 seconds, a comforting thought for its users. So they might be discomfited to know that an unopened photo can linger on the company’s servers for upwards of 30 days and it might even be shared with the police.

Conditions apply, of course. Police can only see an unopened photo with the relevant search warrant. The company says that out of 350 million photos circulating through its servers every day, it has turned over photos “about a dozen times.” So users may want to factor in those odds before sending a pic. They’re slim, but then some photos can be that embarrassing.