You might use Google Hangouts for work and socializing, but have you ever thought about using it for sexy conversations?
If you haven't, you're probably thinking about it now.
Maybe this is the first you're hearing of it, or maybe you're an old pro at the art of the Hangouts sext. Regardless, there's probably a lot you don't know about using this popular platform for an even more popular purpose.
But is it safe and secure? Here are 5 things you should know before your next sexting adventure--plus one golden nugget you won't want to miss.
You've got your phone and your computer, at a minimum, not to mention your work computer and your tablet. And oh, are you sure you logged off last time you used the computer at the library? Yeah, didn't think so.
Anything you send or receive via your Google account will be visible on all of these devices, and the same goes for your conversation partner's devices.
Even if you're meticulous about logging out every time, can you trust your sexting partner to do the same?
You're safe, you think: the photos are from so far back in the chat that no one would ever scroll up far enough to see them. But Hangouts keeps an album of all the photos that have passed back and forth in the chat.
Anyone who uses a device on which you're logged into Google can easily see all the photos you've ever sent or received. So if your roommate picks up your tablet or your mom borrows your laptop to watch Netflix, they might be in for a surprise.
And since it takes two to tango, the same goes for all the devices your partner is logged into. You better have a lot of faith in your partner to delete those photos, or you might be surprised who ends up accidentally catching an eyeful.
So you've sent a saucy photo to someone via Hangouts. You probably assume that it's encoded such that no one but your partner can see it, right?
Try this: click on a picture you've been sent through Hangouts and open it in a new tab or window. Now copy the URL and paste it into a private or incognito browser.
Are you surprised to see the image pop up?
What this means is that anyone with the correct URL can view your supposedly private picture. It's not encrypted or locked at all.
This makes it incredibly easy for your partner to share your photos without your knowledge. A malicious third party can also easily get ahold of your private photos for nefarious purposes.
What's more, this has been brought to Google's attention, and they consider this a feature, not a bug. So this aspect isn't going away anytime soon.
Google has announced that G Suite users (anyone who has access to a Google account through a company, university, or other organization) will not have access to Hangouts after October 2019.
Many of the features of Hangouts will migrate to Hangouts Chat, which is similar to Slack and helps work teams organize and communicate on tasks.
The future of Hangouts for consumer users (those whose accounts aren't affiliated with a larger organization) isn't certain, but rumors report that Hangouts may be gone for all users by the end of 2020.
If you're just looking for a short-term sexting adventure, this may not seem like that big of a problem.
But if you have any plans to hold on to memories or have an online spank bank to refer to in the future, you might want to consider using a service that won't disappear in the next year and a half.
All someone needs to send you an invitation is your email address or phone number.
Think about how many people have this information. Handed out any business cards lately? Exchanged contact info with a colleague at a conference?
Now think about how many more people (with malicious intent) could get their hands on this information with a little bit of work.
Every time you put your email address into a website to sign up for a mailing list, you're putting your faith in whoever runs that site and hoping that they're both able and willing to keep your information private.
And, unless you manually disable this feature, spammers can even add events to your Google Calendar by inviting you to an event at a specific date and time.
This is obnoxious, of course, but it can even be professionally damaging if you use your Calendar for work and someone sees that you have an event with an X-rated name scheduled during working hours.
You don't want your boss to see your meeting with "Cherry Jubilee XXX" scheduled at the same time as your quarterly report.
Of an online survey of over 100,000 people, less than 1% of respondents had ever sexted using Google Hangouts.
That comes with both pros and cons.
On the one hand, Google Hangouts is an innocuous enough app that you can have it on your phone or tablet without anyone batting an eye (unlike something like Grindr or an obscure secure-messaging server).
On the other hand, if you're looking for anonymous sexting (as opposed to sexting with someone you already know IRL), you're probably going to have a harder time finding partners than you would on a more sex-oriented site.
That's not to say it's not possible, just that you'll have to do a little more research on some skeevier corners of the internet to find people with similar interests who will share their contact info.
Google Hangouts is used by lots of cam girls and other online sex providers, so if you're interested in paying a professional for their online services, you might be in luck.
And who knows? You might find the perfect dirty friend who's as creative as you when it comes to picking a sexting platform.
One advantage that Hangouts has over platforms like iMessage and WhatsApp is that you can turn your chat history off entirely.
This means that your texts will only be visible for a short time before they're deleted from both devices as well as Google's server, similar to how texts sent over Snapchat disappear after you've read them.
This is a great security measure if you don't trust your partner to clear their chat history routinely, or if one of you has a bad habit of leaving your phone where prying eyes might see it.
One caveat: if you're a G Suite user, your administrator can change this setting whenever they want. But you're smart enough not to sext on your work account, right?