Snapchat â?? Are your pictures really private?

Screen shot of Snapchat app

A new photo app is creating a lot of buzz and some controversy. It's quickly gaining a reputation for being the new sexting app and many people are learning that, while they think their photos are private, they may not be.

For college students like Jared Mandel and Chelsea Orchutt, apps are just part of everyday life. The Syracuse University seniors spend much of their day on their cell phones, texting their friends, sending tweets and taking pictures.

A new app called Snapchat recently caught their attention.

"The general reaction to Snapchat was that it was this new, fun app, mostly for taking dorky photos of yourself," Orchutt said. "Nothing too serious, and the intrigue of it was that it had this self-destructing element."

Snapchat allows you to send temporary photos to your friends. You can choose how long people can see it, from zero to 10 seconds, before the picture disappears. But does it really?

"It gives people almost a false sense of security that this picture is going to go away in 1, 2, 3 or maybe 10 seconds, but that's not always the case," Mandel said.

That's because the person you send the picture to can take a screenshot of it, then save it on their phone and post it to Facebook or Twitter.

Mandel is mindful of the pictures he sends out, but admits he's received compromising pictures from his friends. "Some of them were explicit in nature," he said.

Syracuse University School of Information Studies professor and social media expert Anthony Rotolo says the app plays on a human behavior, our desire to communicate with each other, and share photos of ourselves.

"So Snapchat is allowing us to share sometimes intimate, sometimes funny, sometimes goofy pictures that we don't want to be permanent memories," Rotolo said. "It does allow you to create photos that are not exactly appropriate for the public, and have a sense of security that they'll be gone after those few seconds. So some people have felt a little more free to take compromising photos and share them."

It's meant to be a way for people to communicate and have fun, but it's already gaining a negative reputation for being used in the wrong way.

"One thing to remember about Snapchat, like any social network or anything on the internet, is it's as private as it can be on the internet, which is not private at all," Rotolo said.