Self-Destruct Apps: Spoliation by Design?

15 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2018 Last revised: 16 Mar 2018

Date Written: February 19, 2018


The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are at risk of being out of sync with current technology trends. Privacy policy in the US and Europe encourages “privacy by design,” the idea that privacy-enhancing features should be built into the very design of new technology. Self-destruct apps, like Snapchat, Confide, and Vaporstream, embody privacy by design by offering ephemeral communication tools that mimic live conversation and avoid permanent records. At the same time, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contemplate broad access to relevant information, including electronically stored information, and impose potentially serious consequences in litigation when relevant information is not preserved.

This essay analyzes the impact self-destruct apps, like Snapchat, will have on civil discovery and explores the tension between privacy policy and preservation duties. It cautions against characterizing self-destruct apps as spoliation by design: onerous or overly expansive preservation duties for self-destructing content are not warranted or desirable. In some contexts, ephemeral messaging may be more akin to live conversation than email, and the Federal Rules need not assume spoliation by their mere use by individuals and businesses.

Keywords: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Preservation, Spoliation, Discovery, e-Discovery, ESI, Electronically Stored Information, social media, ephemeral messaging, ephemeral apps, self-destruct apps, Snapchat, Wickr, Confide, Vaporstream

JEL Classification: K10, K19, K30, K33, K39, K40, K41, K49, M10, M13, M15, M19, M38, M48

Suggested Citation

McPeak, Agnieszka, Self-Destruct Apps: Spoliation by Design? (February 19, 2018). Akron Law Review, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

Agnieszka McPeak (Contact Author)

Gonzaga University School of Law ( email )

721 N. Cincinnati Street
Spokane, WA 99220-3528
United States
(800) 986.9585 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics