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Seen At 11: Digital Decoy Apps Keep Communication On The Down-Low

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- Secret texts covered up, risky phone calls disguised, scandalous pictures vanished into thin air – new technology is helping spouses and kids to be sneaker than ever.

As CBS 2 investigative reporter Tamara Leitner reported Wednesday, your family could already be using digital decoy apps.

Every day, there seems to be another public figure busted in an email or texting scandal. And for every public scandal, there are likely many more that are never revealed because of new technology. The technology that helps people hide and even disguise secret emails and texts.

"You'll never know what the words are saying, what the photo has in it -- you won't know anything," said tech expert Lance Ulanoff of Mashable.

The method for concealing risky communication is using apps with names like "Call and Text Eraser" and "Hide My Text." All have the same goal -- to help users hide and encrypt all sorts of things on their phones, from photos and text messages to entire call logs and contacts.

"One of the best examples is 'Black SMS,'" Ulanoff said. "If someone picks up your phone, all they're going to see are black bubbles."

Ulanoff said other apps can actually hide a text within a text, so that when someone looks at your phone, they don't see the real message.

"So what you'll see is a very short normal conversation, but what you don't know is behind that is a different conversation that's encrypted," he said.

And it's not just phones. Some websites offer a free service that allows you to send a self-destructing message to someone.

Type the message and set the time to self-destruct, and once the message is received and opened, the clock will countdown to zero and the message will disappear forever.

"I would kill my husband," one woman said.

Many people to whom CBS 2 spoke found these services a little more than disturbing.

"If they are doing something that secretive, they are doing something wrong," a woman said.

Such thoughts are echoed by parents as well. Parents like Carol Coleman fear teens are finding ways around their watchful eyes.

"It's scary in a way, just not knowing," she said.

Gerry Polucci is the founder of SmartParents, a service seeking to level the playing field between parents and teens.

"There's been kind of an arms race between parents and technology, and parents are losing," she said.

Polucci teaches adults about the latest technology kids are using to secretly communicate – technology like Snapchat.

It is a popular service with teens who like to send photos, but want those photos to disappear from the receiver's phone shortly after they're viewed.

"I'm not going to deny that pictures that are really risqué go through that, too," teen Hailey Marshall said.

But before you become too paranoid, experts say these digital decoys aren't only used for illicit activities. They can also be used to keep certain matters private, like the planning of a surprise birthday party or the details of a job interview.

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