U.K. company offers expiring text message service

StealthText service is designed to prevent the forwarding or sharing of message by recipients

A U.K. company is capitalizing on the fear of disclosure of confidential text messages by offering a service that allows messages to expire and disappear in less than a minute.

Staellium U.K.'s marketing material targets celebrities "up to no good" or business executives dealing in sensitive information for its StealthText service. The company has been deluged with queries for the service, which went live on Saturday, and so far "thousands" have signed up, said Carole Barnum, chief executive officer, in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The technology is not designed to halt a high-profile hacking of the type that caused socialite Paris Hilton a dose of embarrassment. Instead, StealthText is designed to prevent the forwarding or sharing of message by recipients, Barnum said.

StealthText offers a feature that may have avoided Hilton's situation. The service provides a separate address book that is not stored on the phone but rather on secure servers used by text message aggregators, Barnum said.

After downloading an applet using a WAP (Wireless Access Protocol) connection, SteathText can be used to send a SMS (Short Message Service) message. The recipients -- as long as they have a WAP-enabled mobile phone -- see a link to the message. A message sent in "stealth mode" disappears from a mobile about 40 seconds after it is viewed.

While the message is deleted from the recipient's phone, the "paper trail" along with a log of the message stays on a secure server for a period of time. The recipient doesn't have access to the server, Staellium said.

StealthText message are sold in bundles of 12 for £5 ($8.78), according to a company press release.

Although StealthText is only available now for U.K. SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) card users, within two weeks the service will be available in 10 European countries and eventually in the U.S. and Asia, Barnum said.