TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

Summary: A new smartphone application promises to turn sent text messages into ticking time bombs. Is it a panacea for privacy or an unethical legal loophole?

TOPICS: Apps, Mobility, Telcos

OK, confession time: How many of you have ever sent a text that could one day come back to haunt you?

Yeah, that's what I thought.

Those text messages? Now bygones. The answer from here on out: TigerText.

While traditional texts live a second life on your carrier's server, long after you hit erase on your phone, TigerTexts are deleted at a time of your choosing, between one minute and one month after they're read.

Think of it as the morning-after pill for your messaging. Or, if you're not inclined to that metaphor, imagine texting on an Etch A Sketch. You read it, and then--shake!--it's gone.

The app was released last week for the iPhone, and the company expects to roll out apps for Blackberry and Android in the next few weeks.

You can give it a shot with a free 15-day, 100-text trial. If you like it, it's a $2.49 monthly fee for unlimited texts. (When you use TigerText, your carrier's text fees won’t apply, since they’re technically not phone texts.)

Here’s how it works. Other than the hue, the app looks just like conventional iPhone texting. The difference is that the settings prompt you to select a time for your messages to be deleted. The minimum allows the message to live for 60 seconds after the intended recipient opens it; the maximum allows it to live for 30 days.

Although users on both side of the conversation must have the app, it's the sender of the message who controls when it is deleted.

The message completely circumvents your phone's server by instead transmitting through TigerText's server. If, for instance, you select two hours for the lifespan of the message, after two hours, it will be deleted from the sender's phone, the recipient’s phone and the server -- forever.

There is a countdown to show how much longer the message will exist on this planet, and—poof—after it’s gone, there are tiger paw prints in its place. (Which, you must admit, are adorable.)

Here's a look at the app:

Time magazine took an easy shot at TigerText by making the obvious link to Tiger Woods' philandering -- calling it "an iPhone app for cheating spouses" -- but the app's implications go far beyond illicit affairs.

What about using it on your corporate-issued smartphone?

"Instead of loose lips, we use the term loose thumbs," said TigerText founder Jeffrey Evans. "And everyone has loose thumbs at some point. 'I hate my boss' -- you can say that, and we've all said that. But if you text it and your employer finds it, your career is over."

Evans said an increasing number of employers are searching the Internet to see what they can find out about a potential employee.

"Anything you send, email or text," Evans said. “You have to realize someone might make hiring decisions based on that.”

Whether it's the case of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his infidelities -- which were revealed in text messages between him and his former top aide -- or the case of Sgt. Jeff Quon of the Ontario Police Department in California, who sued after the department read transcripts of texts from his government pager, saying it violated his Fourth Amendment rights, the issue of privacy and texting has reached a critical point.

In December, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take on the Ontario case and decide whether the department violated Quon’s privacy rights. The court's decision may send a broader message about privacy in this digital era, especially for workers communicating electronically using their employers' phones.

Evans says the legal community is applauding TigerText. He says one attorney told him, "I can't say how many times my clients' text messages have caused problems for me."

On the other hand, prosecutors and detectives who prefer everything on the record probably aren't such big fans of TigerText, which makes it impossible to read the texting history of those who use the app.

"Fortunately, we live in a country that doesn't believe that's the way things should work," Evans said. "I certainly feel like the government is getting more intrusive, not less."

Detroit mayor Kilpatrick and Ontario officer Quon surely would have been better off—at least in the texting cosmos—if they'd had TigerText.

But would we have been better off?

Topics: Apps, Mobility, Telcos

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  • Name is not cool

    So she finds you have an app called "TigerText" loaded, isn't that a huge giveaway itself?

    On reflection... that -is- cool. For people who don't want to get cheated on, and do want to audit their relatively stupid significant other's personal data devices to make sure.

    As for public officials, I want everything they send to be held against appropriate auditing.
    Robert Carnegie 2009
    • A very good point.

      Any corporate managed device is going to bar this app from being loaded on a company owned device, and as you said it, if your spouse or Significant other finds this app loaded, and they look at the description of the app, the jig is up.

      There will not be any plausible deniability. If you have an open honest relationship with your spouse, then you have no need for this app. And if you feel it is necessary to have this app, then do the responsible thing, and break up with them.
      • lots of reasons for privacy

        Really? The *only* possible reason anyone could have for wanting to
        erase their text messages is cheating? What about not wanting your
        kids to find sexually-explicit messages sent to your spouse? Or non-
        malicious complaining about your boss that you don't want to come
        back to haunt you? Or just generally wanting your private
        communications to stay that way? Then again, I'm amazed at the
        number of people who send all their email in the clear, do all their
        IMing in the clear, and basically leave everything but their banking
        open for anybody to intercept and read.

        Of course, TigerText isn't a very good solution, as it relies on the
        behavior of the company that runs it. Something like Off the Record or
        Vanish encryption schemes are much more reliable, IMHO.
  • RE: TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

    yes we are better off with TigerText and other apps like this. When can they make one for email? I'm sick over the fact that my cell phone provider holds a record of everything I say. Anyone who is married and may one day get divorced, every lawyer will read everything you ever texted. Can't we say things without the government having access and needing to listen? I don't mean to sound dramatic here, but what right does the government have to look at my emails? If we all had the option to make our cell phone companies purge the texts and emails we send wouldn't we all select 'yes' for that option? I'm sorry but I'm all for tiger Text. I hope it eventually becomes the only way people text and email.
    • Wake up and smell the rotten roses

      "what right does the government have to look at my emails?"

      Hello! It's not just the government that can look at your emails. The whole world can. People have this crazy notion that email is something between the sender and the receiver but the truth is email is broadcast openly on every node between the two parties. Emailing is similar to leaning out your house window and shouting something to somebody walking on the sidewalk. You have little to complain if other people on the sidewalk hear it too. What I love even more is the people that place disclaimers on their signature about email being only for the intended recipient. Come on!

      If you want something you say to be private, then say it privately. If you don't like my shouting out the window analogy, think of email as a postcard, being able to be read by anybody whose hands it goes through.

      Now Tigertext is not all that innovative. People have been doing similar things with encrypted IMs for years. The only difference is you force the recipient to lose the information too. But that doesn't mean they couldn't keep a copy/screenshot anyway. Ultimately, you shouldn't say anything you would regret others reading. I once heard that a man's character is defined by what he does when he thinks nobody's watching. Privacy is too often used as the umbrella to cover wrong-doing.
  • The "texts" might as well not be erased....

    After all, just the presence of the app on your iPhone alone is enough to make you look guilty in your spouse's eyes.
  • RE: TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

    whats the point.....what about if i want to text someone with a non supported or 'older' type phone?? waste of time....just meet and talk in a carpark..best privacy...just a blag for the company to try to make money...nothing more....
  • What about screen shots?

    Someone could very well capture the current text on screen with a screen shot and forward it to whomever they want to. Capture enough of them and you will have the whole conversation.
    Just sayin'...
    An Apple a Day
  • Can you trust TigerText?

    Would you really trust them to delete your texts completely and irretrievably?
    • RE: Can you trust TigerText?

      @murphym@... Would you really trust them? Of course you would trust them. Do you trust your doctor, policemen, or how about your mailman? When you pay someone to do a service for you, then they are obligated to do it. If they don't then 2 things will happen. 1)they would have huge legal issues, and 2)well they wouldn't make it very far to begin with so they wouldn't be much of a company. So ya I am trusting them to do the service they say they do.
      • RE: TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

        @zgbizwiz security is always trust no one. the US already has laws in place whereby organizations are constantly being required to maintain logs of messages for legal purposes. Skype is currently being pushed toward allowing wire taps on communication despite their p2p end to end encryption system (senators/congresspersons very rarely understand these systems and the challenges implied in wire tapping them). That is why tigertext cannot be fully trusted.
    • RE: TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

      exactly, security is trust no one!
      i am currently a computer engineering student working on my phd in distributed systems, however i took a little hiatus one night and started designing this system for a trust no one, "decentralized encrypted sender controlled message system". i think currently the security for the system is sound, but i want people to look at it and comment, as my field is not computer security, i am just an enthusiast.
  • RE: TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

    No person who uses a device furnished by the company/government entity for whom they work, should have any expectation of privacy. These devices are used for work related issues and should never be used for personal use. As to privacy concerns with personally owed devices all expectations of privacy are sacrosanct and should be constitutionally upheld.
    • Good Points With Some Tweaking

      "[i]These devices ... should never be used for personal use[/i]."

      Yes, I agree that misuse of employer-provided resources is inappropriate. However, the above is too strong a dictate. No boundary on professional life can ever completely exclude personal life. Normal families require communication across the professional - personal border for daily operation. For example:

      "Honey plz pick up coff syrup & gallon of milk on way home."

      Anyone who has held a DoD or contractor security clearance is very well aware that any expectation of "privacy" is strictly an illusion. No matter what we do, there are [u]always[/u] witnesses and records.

      Most people would be very surprised at just how many people in their lives and all around them have a very good idea exactly what they're up to.
      • True enough

        Not many people carry around two cell phones, one for business and one for personal use. Some do (typically, a corporate BlackBerry & a personal cell), but it's not the norm by any means, and smart-phones are blurring what little distinction there is.
  • RE: TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

    1) Until everyone joins a network, it will remain a
    curiosity. The need to "have the app" will be a big
    roadblock in adoption.
    2) While Big Brother can't get your texts, the recipient
    can. Two words: Screen Capture
  • Why would it be unethical?

    It was weird to use the word "unethical" for this application.

    Are we so used to big brother that protecting our own privacy is "unethical"?

    I don't remember anyone finding it unethical to burn your own paper notes (as long as they were only yours).

    Of course people may use it for unethical purposes but they can already use a pencil for that.
    • RE Why would it be unethical?

      "Are we so used to big brother that protecting
      our own privacy is "unethical"? "

      Very well said, There are way too many people ready to, Give up theirs and everyone else s privacy, I swear too many people have gotten so comfortable and welcoming of Big brother.
      Just look at how many sheep we now have in our society, Who have this whole attitude of... OHHHH Watch us big brother and keep us all safe, Because I'm not doing anything wrong so I don't have anything to hide. And then if you don't trust Big bro, then it means you're a wacky nutty conspiracy theorist.
      Just keep reading the post's, no doubt you will see some right here on this site.
  • RE: TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

    No licensed MSP would offer such a self-destruct service. Their execs would end
    up in jail due to lawful-intercept requirements in almost every country on
    planet earth!
  • RE: TigerText can erase sent text messages. Is it really the 'perfect app for cheating'?

    Erased my butt,a record of all phone conversations are being kept on a hard drive at most big business phone centers. It doesn`t violate the privacy act if it is during working hours. We recorded the first 20 seconds of all phone calls. Cell phones are no different. Somebody is listening. Don`t be stupid. Scramble,sure. LOL