There’s been some speculation lately about how snaps are stored and when and how they are deleted. We’ve always tried to be upfront about how things work and we haven’t made any changes to our practices, so we thought it’d be cool to go over things in a bit more detail.
When someone sends a snap, it is uploaded to our servers, the recipient(s) are sent a notification that they have a new snap and the Snapchat app downloads a copy of the message. The image or video from the message is stored in a temporary folder in the device’s memory. This is sometimes in internal memory, RAM or external memory like an SD Card—depending on the platform and whether it’s a video or a picture.
Deleting Snaps From Our Servers
When a snap is viewed and the timer runs out, the app notifies our servers, which in turn notify the sender that the snap has been opened. Once we’ve been notified that a snap has been opened by all of its recipients, it is deleted from our servers. If a snap is still unopened after 30 days, it too is deleted from our servers.
Deleting Snaps From the Recipient’s Device
After a snap has been opened, the temporary copy of it is deleted from the device’s storage. We try to make this happen immediately, sometimes it might take a minute or two. The files are deleted by sending a “delete” instruction to the phone’s file system. This is the normal way that things are usually deleted on computers and phones—we don’t do anything special (like “wiping”).
While an unopened snap is being stored on the device, it’s not impossible to circumvent the Snapchat app and access the files directly. This isn’t something we support or encourage and in most cases it would involve jailbreaking or “rooting” the phone and voiding its warranty. If you’re trying to save a snap, it would be easier (and safer) to just take a screenshot or take a picture with another camera.
Also, if you’ve ever tried to recover lost data after accidentally deleting a drive or maybe watched an episode of CSI, you might know that with the right forensic tools, it’s sometimes possible to retrieve data after it has been deleted. So… you know… keep that in mind before putting any state secrets in your selfies :)