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

Staellium UK'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 enquiries about the service, which went live on Saturday, and so far "thousands" have signed up, according to Carole Barnum, the firm's CEO, in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The technology is not designed to halt a high-profile address-book hacking of the type that caused socialite Paris Hilton a dose of embarrassment. Instead, StealthText is designed to prevent the forwarding or sharing of messages 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.

After downloading an applet using a WAP connection, SteathText can be used to send an SMS message. The recipients – provided 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, according to a company press release.

Although StealthText is only available now for UK SIM card users, within two weeks the service will be available in 10 European countries and eventually in the US and Asia, Barnum said.