The little waves, with their soft, white hands,
Efface the footprints in the sands,
And the tide rises, the tide falls.
– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I was reading this poem with my daughter the other day and thought if only life were that simple now. Unfortunately footprints today last a great deal longer as Hillary Clinton recently discovered through the Guccifer hacking scandal that has engulfed herself and other such notable figures as Kleiner Perkins’ John Doerr. According to reports, a hacker broke into Clinton confidante Sydney Blumenthal’s AOL email account and pilfered several confidential communications (including classified documents) sent to him by Secretary Clinton.
As CEO of TigerConnect, I am in the business of secure messaging and thus was not surprised that a secretary of state might be sharing such sensitive information with a close former colleague who was a civilian. We all find ourselves from time to time wanting to gain the guidance of a close friend or family member on sensitive matters and email or text message are often the simplest and quickest way to transmit information. Unfortunately, we don’t always consider that once we hit the Send button we lose control of that information. We are at the mercy of the recipient to treat that information as sensitively as you may deem it. Even if we understand there is a risk of hacking we don’t want to give up the convenience of fast communication to mitigate this risk. Our digital footprints don’t get washed away over time but rather remain there indefinitely for someone to potentially access and uses for some other purpose.
For many like former Secretary Clinton, it is simply not practical to telephone their friend with every sensitive detail they want to share. We reflexively type out a message and hit send without thinking about longer-term consequences.
Indeed this is exactly why we recently introduced a feature to TigerText called “Message Anyone” that allows a sender to send a self-destructing TigerText to anyone’s email or a mobile number via text message. As more and more confidential information is being transmitted electronically to people’s mobile devices and desktops, the importance of the sender retaining control of how long that message lives is becoming that much more critical.
As is so often the case tech-savvy teenagers have figured out this need ahead of everyone else as evidenced by their rapid adoption of mobile app Snapchat. Commentators who refer to Snapchat as a sexting app have actually missed the point and don’t understand that the volume of snaps being sent cannot be explained by sexting alone. In actuality, the vast majority of content being sent are silly photos that kids don’t want living forever as part of their permanent record on Facebook or some other social media platform.
Likewise, I bet that Hillary Clinton wishes the same today about the numerous off the record emails she sent over the years to her close confidante Mr. Blumenthal. We all deserve that right as private and even public citizens.