After accidentally launching the ephemeral messaging app last week, Facebook officially released Slingshot for iOS and Android on Tuesday, June 17. The new service could foreshadow some interesting shifts in information governance more broadly.
Styled after Snapchat, the application is designed to send self-destructing text messages and photos. On Snapchat, people can see a photo sent to them by tapping on it and holding their finger down until it disappears, always within a few seconds. With Slingshot, receivers can see a message only if they send one back. Until they do, they'll only see a pixelated preview of what's in store.
While there has been much conversation about how to monetize these services, the growing importance of data privacy and the recent "right to be forgotten" ruling in the European Union may point toward some possibilities. Europe's highest court recently ruled citizens have the right to request Google and other search engines remove outdated or irrelevant personal information from search engine results. Services like Slingshot and Snapchat, whose messages delete within a few seconds, could be an antidote with their model of sending temporary data. They could provide a solution to the flood of requests in the EU, for example, for Google to remove "outdated" and "irrelevant" information.
These new temporary messaging services could also be a boon for information governance and records management, particularly companies' persistent problem of retaining data for too long. Companies are often guilty of failing to enact or enforce data retention and destruction policies.
In late 2013, Snapchat was also subject to a data breach, so the idea that it could promote data privacy and security is up for debate. There is also a growing crop of applications designed to delete text and other chat message history from Skype, Facebook and mobile devices.
In addition to questions of return on investment and security, this is already a busy space. There is stiff competition among these services as well, with not only Snapchat, but with Instagram, which Facebook owns, and with WhatsApp, which Facebook is due to acquire. But these services could offer new solutions to the potential quagmire of information removal that the "right to be forgotten" creates.