Concerns over ‘authentic’ social media app BeReal
A French social media app that encourages its users to be the most authentic themselves has grown in popularity in recent months, but concerns have now been raised over online privacy.
BeReal, founded by Alexis Barreyat and Kévin Perreau in late 2019, is currently No. 1 on the iPhone App Store for free apps, beating WhatsApp and Facebook stalwarts for the top spot.
The app sends out a prompt at a random time once a day telling its users to take simultaneous photos using their front and back cameras – without filters – within two minutes. Users can only view their friends’ photos after posting their own images.
Although the images are shared within a closed network, there is also an option for the photographs to be shared publicly via the “discovery feed”.
NetSafe spokesman Sean Lyons said it was about getting people to “organize less” and “just to create an image that says who I am and what I’m doing at any given time” .
He said BeReal offers users a platform that removes the pressures of “getting the right picture, looking at it the right way, and being in the right place.”
“I think BeReal is sort of a response to that saying ‘you don’t have time to do this… Take a picture now in the next two minutes’ and it gives an idea of ’that’s exactly who we all are” with no dressing up, too much accent, or room to fake photos or filter at all.
“It’s not about spending days or weeks figuring out what you’re going to pack and traveling somewhere fancy to make your life look more awesome than it really is. It’s it’s just about saying “I’m here now” and then I guess starting a conversation with people based on that.”
However, there are privacy concerns, with the images providing information about where a person is at any given time.
Lyons said that while images are set to private by default, which is a “good step in the right direction”, images are also “geotagged by default”.
“It’s something to be really aware of. We’re not just saying, ‘This is me and who I am’ – we’re also saying, ‘This is me and this is where I was exactly when this photo was taken.'”
BeReal is also marketed for children 12 and older, which Lyons says is “a pretty standard age for many for social media apps.”
While it’s assumed users in this age group are able to make informed decisions about what they share online and with whom, Lyons said parents or guardians of young people shouldn’t “assuming that means they have the skills, they have the knowledge”. .
He said parents or guardians should have meaningful conversations “so we know they’re aware of what they’re sharing, they’re aware of some of the potential challenges or risks, and they know what do if something goes wrong”.
But he also warned that as its popularity continues to spread, kids under 12 might see it as “something cool and aspirational and might try to use it”.
“We’ll find, eventually, that people will change their date of birth, do other things around it, and use these kinds of apps at a much younger age than expected.”
Lyons advised young people to be aware “of exactly what they are sharing”.
“You have to think very carefully whether you intend to do this or not, but you also have to be aware of what you should do as a user of this application if something goes wrong.”
“It’s really about making sure they feel like they’re in control of what they share.”
Parents and guardians, meanwhile, were asked to discuss with young people what content they share, who they share it with, and the risks involved.
“As with so many apps, it’s an opportunity for parents to talk to young people about what they know to protect themselves and if they’re unhappy or unsure that young people know what. do in potentially difficult situations, there is an opportunity to help support them.
“Learn from them if you’re not sure what the app is but make sure before anyone posts anything that you as a parent and your youngster are happy and know what happens before you make the decision to share content.”