My favorite texting application, Signal Private Messenger, now incorporates a feature that many of us have longed for: message ephemerality. Signal calls this “Signal Disappearing Messages”.
Signal Disappearing Messages
To enable Signal Disappearing messages, open a conversation. At the top of the screen, long-press the person’s name. This will open some settings for the conversation. Toggle the “Disappearing Messages” slider on. This will turn the feature on and send a notification to all parties in the conversation. If you wish to modify the destruction interval, use the slider to add more or less time.
Messages intervals may be selected ranging from 5 seconds to one week. The shortest intervals should only be used for the most sensitive of messages, while the longer intervals are ideal for day-to-day traffic. I set most of my conversations for 1 day (the default). This gives me a good balance of plenty of time to review messages, while still limiting what I keep available. Even if you use the longest interval (one week), this is still far preferable to having months of communications stored on your device.
Signal Disappearing Messages has some interesting features. First, all communicants in a conversation must agree on a destruction time. If one user turns disappearing messages on, it is turned on for all users in the conversation. If one user turns disappearing messages off, it is turned off for all users in the conversation. Once it is turned on, all users must also agree on the destruction interval.
Signal Disappearing Messages on Desktop
Signal Disappearing Messages can also be used on Signal’s desktop application. To do so click the overflow stack (the three vertical dots) on the top right of the interface. Click “Disappearing Messages”. This will turn the feature on and send a notification to all parties in the conversation. If you wish to modify the destruction interval, click the stop watch icon in the upper portion of the interface.
I strongly recommend using this feature. Though message ephemerality can’t stop someone you’ve sent a message to from copying that message, it does greatly limit the lifetime of your conversations. This means you aren’t carrying months or years of conversations in your pocket that could then be exploited. There is one feature that is missing, however. I wish there was a default, global destruction interval. Instead, you have to go into each conversation individually and enable destruction. If you haven’t enabled Signal Disappearing Messages, do so immediately.