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 A UK developer has come up with a "self-destruct" text messaging service it hopes will prove a hit with both businessmen dealing with sensitive information and celebrity love cheats. StealthText from Staellium UK is positioned as a means to give a sender control over text messages they send instead of relying on a recipient to delete it, something Rebecca Loos conspicuously failed to do with messages from David Beckham, resulting in much embarrassment for the metrosexual football icon last year.

StealthText deletes SMS messages 40 seconds after they are read, a technology Staellium compares to the destruction of instructions played by agents in the Mission Impossible TV series and movies. Users of the service need to have a WAP-enabled mobile phone though only those sending texts need to download a StealthText applet. Message bundles cost £5 for 10 secure messages and the service is only available to users of UK SIM cards. Users can sign-up by texting STEALTH to 80880.

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Once a message has been sent, the recipient receives a text notification showing the sender’s name and providing a link to the message. Once opened, the message will disappear after around 40 seconds.

To comply with legal requirements, even after a message is deleted from the recipient's phone, the 'paper trail' and log stays on a secure server. To prevent abuse, the recipient has no access to the server. Recipients can reply with StealthTexts (after signing up to the service themselves), creating a private channel of two-way communication.

Carole Barnum, chief exec and co-founder of Staellium UK comments, "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. 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."

Staellium UK plans to make its StealthText service available across Europe, in the US and Asia early next year.

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