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Introduction to Snapchat

Snapchat has become one of the most popular chat applications for young adults and teens all around the world. It has started to become more popular than the Facebook Messenger, due to the unique ability for a post (aka SNAP) to disappear after a given period. Which provides the end-user a belief of some anonymity, more so than the Facebook messenger app.

From an investigator’s perspective, it creates a unique challenge to secure digital evidence left by individuals committing criminal acts while operating on the platform.

If this is your first time learning about Snapchap let me tell you a little about it and how to utilize the application.

Released in 2011 gives you the option to add captions drawings and filters to your photos and videos which are known as snaps. There is a time limit to view the snap.

You can set it anywhere from 1 second to 10 seconds. Then it’s gone for good. Anything shared through this app is deleted but like everything online privacy is not guaranteed.

Step 1: Download SnapChat & Create an Account

Snapchat can be downloaded for free on Android and iOS devices. Once you have it installed, open it on your phone. You’ll have the option to log in with an existing account or create a new one.

  1. To create a free account, tap “Sign Up.” After entering your email address, password and birthday, tap the “Sign Up” button.
  1. To create an account, you’re required to give your email address, birthday and create a password.



To sign up for this app, you have to be 13 years of age. If you are not, you will be rerouted to Snapkidz. Which is a kid-friendly version of the snap chat!

Now if you are older than 13 and creating an account, they will ask you to verify your identity by sharing your mobile— Snapchat makes a point to say that your number will not be shared with other Snapchat users.

Once you have done this, you have the choice to receive your six-digit verification code via SMS or a phone call. Once you have the code, enter it in the “Verification Code” field. As part of the verification process, you may be asked a question like the one below. Once you’ve answered it correctly, you’re ready for the next step.

Step 2: Add contacts to snap chat

  1. Next, there is a screen that says “Find Friends.” Snapchat uses your contacts out of your phone to help you add your friends to allow this tap “OK” when the notification pops up.
  1. Other users on Snapchat, who have your phone number saved in their contacts can find you, too. You have the choice to add all your contacts who are on Snapchat or add people one at a time by typing in their username or their snap code. Snap code is unique, scannable codes that make adding new Snapchat friends and opening Snapchat content even easier!
  1. “My Friends” is a screen to make see your friends, add friends and search for other Snapchat users. By dragging the screen down or tapping on the three lines located the bottom right corner of the camera screen.
  1. To add friends, tap the person icon with a plus sign in the top-right corner. Now you can see people who have Snapchat from your address book and can add them by tapping the plus symbol. To find users by username, tap on the magnifying glass. To see who added you to their friend list, tap the person icon with a plus sign next to it.

pic2.pngStep 3: Set up your personal profile

  1. By tapping on the red square on the bottom right corner of your camera screen, Then, tap the gear icon in the top-right corner.
  2. You can update your personal information, choose who can send you snaps and view your Stories (we will explain this later) And you can turn off the mobile phone feature if you don’t want your friends to find you that way.
  3. Under Additional Services, you will see a tab called “Manage.” You’ll see there are several bonus features that you can enable. In this section, you can enable filters, front-facing flash, power save mode and special text.




Step 4: Time for snaps

Snapchat can activate your phone’s camera; it’s easy to use. If you need to adjust the focus of the camera, tap anywhere on the screen. Tap the camera icon in the top right-hand corner to switch from rear camera to front camera, and if you need the flash, all you have to do is tap the lightning symbol at the top-left corner to turn on the flash.

  1. The circle at the bottom of the screen is to take the photo. To record a video, hold the circle at the bottom of the screen. Videos can only be up to 10 seconds long.pic4
  2. There is a pencil icon in the top-right corner to use the drawing tool. You can pick a color by adjusting the slider.
  1. You can doodle on your snaps with the pencil tool. To doodle, you have to use your finger to draw on the photo. If you make a mistake, simply tap the arrow at the top left the screen (by the pencil) to undo any mistakes.
  1. Snapchat allows you to add captions. When your recipient opens the snap, this caption will appear in a bar on top of the photo or video. All you have to do is tap on the screen after you have taken the picture or video to add a caption.
  1. Want to add things like time, temperature or location to your snap? Make sure you’ve enabled the filter feature in your setting; all you do is swipe your finger left or right to preview each filter.

You can choose how long you want your anyone to view your snap. Remember the max limit is ten seconds to adjust the time limit, tap the stopwatch icon at the bottom-left corner and scroll up or down.

To save your image or video before sending it, tap the downward-pointing arrow at the bottom of the screen. Snapchat can download the photo to your photo album if you hit the tap in the lower left-hand corner (it is right by the timer). You cannot save a Snap after you send it.

To use features like filters and “Our Story” (discussed later), the app requires access to your location. By turning on filters, you are giving Snapchat permission to access your location.

Step 5: Send your snap

  1. If you are ready to send that snap to your favorite person all you have to do is tap the arrow in the bottom right-hand corner. Your friend list will appear, and you can select that special person to send it to. There is no limit as to how many people you can send a snap too, choose whomever you would like and hit send by tapping the arrow in the bottom-right corner.
  1. Once that special person has opened your snap, the triangle (for photos) or square (for videos) icon next to your friend’s name will not be filled in. A filled-in icon means your snap has been sent but hasn’t been open yet.
  1. So, what happens to a snap after it’s sent? Well, Snapchat’s privacy policy states, “once all recipients have viewed a snap, we automatically delete the snap from our servers and our services are programmed to delete the snap from the Snapchat app on the recipients’ devices.”
  1. There is also a replay feature, which lets you replay one snap that was sent to you in the last 24 hours. The downfall, you can only use replay once every 24 hours, and it will only allow you to replay the snap you last viewed.

Step 6: View snaps sent to you.


  1. Your Friends can send you snaps too. If you want to view them, go to the camera screen, and you’ll see a number on the bottom-left corner of the screen in a red box. This number shows how many unopened snaps you have.
  1. If there is a filled-in red icon next to the user’s name, you haven’t opened that snap yet. An empty square or triangle means you already viewed the snap.
  1. You’ll see the timer in the top-right corner, which shows how long you can view the snap. When the timer ends, the snap is gone permanently (unless you use the replay feature, explained above).
  1. Warning — if you take a screenshot of your friend’s snap (the same way you would take a screenshot of anything on your phone), he or she will receive a notification. This is the same if someone screenshots yours too.

Step 7: Send Stories


  1. Stories can be photos or videos. The difference is that all of your friends can see your story. Stories only last for 24 hours and then are deleted. They also can be replayed as many times as you or your friends want to view them.
  1. To make a Story, take the photo or video and proceed to the “Send to…” tab. Check off the circle next to “My Story.” You also have the option to choose which friends you want to receive your Story individually. To make a story, hit and hold the circle button and you will begin a ten-second video. Tap the rectangle icon with a plus sign located on the bottom of your screen. Tap “Add to Your Story.” Now, remember it will exist on your feed for 24 hours; unless you decide to delete it first. To delete the snap from your Story, go to your “My Friends” page and tap on the gear icon next to your Story. Tap “Delete.”
  1. Another way to make a story is to hit and hold the circle button and you will begin a ten-second video. Tap the rectangle icon with a plus sign located on the bottom of your screen. Tap “Add to Your Story.” Now, remember it will exist on your feed for 24 hours. Unless you decide to delete it first. To delete the snap from your Story, go to your “My Friends” page and tap on the gear icon next to your Story. Tap “Delete.”
  1. If you want to view any of your friend’s stories all you have to do at the main screen is slide it to the left and the stories will load, and you can view them. Remember they can tell how many people have seen their story. You can too by going to the story page and at the very top where it says my story click on the three dots at the top right-hand side now at the bottom it will have an eye if you click into this it will show you who all have looked at your story.

Step 9: You can have live chats.

Snapchat can be more than sending snaps and Stories. You can also have a real-time face to face chats.

  1. To start a chat, visit your Snapchat inbox and swipe right on a friend’s name that you would like to chat with. All you have to do is tap the camera button to begin your face to face chat.pic7
  2. Once you leave the chat screen, all messages between you and your friend will be cleared. If you want to save your message, you can either take screenshots of it or tap the conversation to save it. When you tap on the messages, the font will change and will be highlighted in red, which means that you have saved the conversation.

Step 10: What is a Snapchat Score

Your Snapchat score is a special equation combining the number of Snaps you’ve sent and received, Stories you’ve posted, and other factors.

  1. To view your score, go to the main page All you have to do is slide the top of the screen down, and it will bring your score to the screen Your score shows your username and then how many snaps were taken and| received. Or hit the white ghost at the top of the page and it will bring you to the main this page as well.pic8

In conclusion, Snapchat is a unique platform for individuals wishing to communication and share information that is not left on the platform for others to find, for all to see years from now. From an investigator’s perspective, Snapchat can be a challenging experience for any cyber investigator to secure digital evidence.

The next blog in this series will discuss ways for cyber investigators to seek out criminal acts on the platform, how to identify the individual committing the act, and how to secure digital evidence left behind to aid you in your criminal investigation.

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