The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Stealth on SMS trail
- Self-destruct service for text messages

London, Dec. 13: British scientific genius, which has in the past split the atom and given the world the jet engine, has now come up with an equally revolutionary invention to offer mankind ' text messaging that “self-destructs” in seconds.

Bearing in mind the trouble England soccer captain David Beckham had with the SMS texts of a “highly sexual nature” allegedly sent to his very personal assistant, Rebecca Loos, the new service will enable footballers and would-be adulterous couples to cover their tracks in future.

Called StealthText ' after the American Stealth Bomber, which is not picked up by radar ' the system has been developed by Staellium UK Ltd, a Winchester-based firm.

According to Carol Barnum, co-founder of Staellium UK: “We are a global service and there has been a lot of interest from India ' we intend working with our partners in India.”

“Each time we press ‘send’ for our texts, e-mails and voice mails, we relinquish control to those with whom we share it,” she said.

“Should we not ask ourselves if the information we are sending might be misused before checking it out'”

Once a mobile phone user has registered free of charge with Staellium, the sender despatches the SMS in the normal way but the message goes first to the company which then alerts the recipient by sending a link.

The messages “self destructs” after it has been read by the recipient, who cannot forward it or copy it (except, of course, by hand, which is no proof of authenticity in cases of “kiss and tell”).

Until now it has always been up to recipients to decide whether to keep messages on their phones. This new system puts the onus on senders.

Staellium’s sales pitch is: “Whether you’re a celebrity who is up to no good or a business executive dealing in sensitive information, the last thing you want is for urgent text messages you’ve sent to fall into the wrong hands. StealthText allows you to send a text message safely in the knowledge that it will delete itself from the recipient’s mobile phone as soon as the person has read it ' ultimately, allowing the sender control of their own information.”

In reality, the messages are not really destroyed but have to be preserved by law for, at least, six months before being permanently deleted. The recipient has no access to the central server.

Compared with the 10 pence charge for most text messages sent within the UK, the self-destruct variety will cost five times as much but senders may feel the higher rate is well worth the investment.

Staellium hopes to extend its service to email, voice and picture messages. It can only be used in WAP (wireless application protocol) phones ' 80 per cent of the UK’s 40 million mobile phone users.

Faria: 'Girly' texts

Faria Alam, the Bangladeshi woman who was a secretary at the Football Association, sent “girly” text messages and emails to her friends boasting about her conquests, only to have them published in the Sunday tabloids.

Of course, the new service is aimed not only at people having affairs but also at businessmen and Whitehall officials who want their exchanges kept secret.

The service has drawn comparison with the American Mission Impossible films from the sixties and seventies, which had a line: “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds.”

Staellium claims to have attracted potential business from celebrity agents, the ministry of defence and the financial sector.

Barnum said: “The technology behind StealthText is derived from military technology, so the comparisons with Mission Impossible are justified. The ability to send a self-destruct message has massive benefits for people from all walks of life, from everyday mobile users, through to celebrities and business people, but this is just the start.”

She went on: “In spring 2006 we will be launching new services such as self-destruct email, voice and picture messages, so ultimately no one will ever have to worry about their messages or pictures ending up in the wrong hands ever again.”

If StealthTexting does take off, the alleged Rebecca Loos-David Beckham type of exchange will be lost to literature:

Loos: U made me so horny the other day had nightmare trying to focus. U playing 2night'

Beckham: Glad I can still do that to you.

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