BeReal has taken the world by storm since its launch in 2020, with millions eagerly sharing just one unfiltered photo everyday.
But cybersecurity experts warn the platform is plagued with privacy concerns, allegedly owning the rights to your photos for three decades.
The claims come as antivirus firm Avast took a closer look at the often brushed over terms and conditions of BeReal.
Scarily, the platform owns the right to ‘modify’, ‘publish’ and ‘display’ your photos in any way it likes – whether it be on billboards, the Apple store or other adverts.
While privacy settings must be switched off for this to occur by default, ‘friends only’ photos can be used for marketing too, providing you gave consent.
BeReal has the right to put some of your photos on billboards and adverts if it chooses
BeReal’s concerning Terms and Conditions
- BeReal allegedly has the right to use your publicly shared photos for 30 years
- These can be used in adverts and put on billboards. They can also be shared with other companies and individuals. This is provided that the photos were ‘globally shared’ rather than shared with just friends
- Geolocation and the ‘Discovery’ section could potentially be misused for stalking
- Timer-based photoshoots could accidentally reveal private information
- Rushed photoshoots could also be abused by scammers if they find useful personal information
As a result, any so-called ‘globally shared content’ can be distributed non-exclusively and ‘worldwide’ without royalties.
Content can also be made available to ‘other companies, organisations or individuals’ for any other media purpose or service.
Avast’s Global Head of Security, Jeff Williams, alleges that BeReal’s photo licence can last for up to 30 years, although this is not currently stated in its terms.
‘Imagine your most compromising and embarrassing moment being attached to an ad campaign to your friends or to content which goes viral and garners millions of viewers,’ he said.
‘Thirty years is largely forever in internet time and potentially covers 60+% of someone’s career years. This seems to be a particularly long grant of rights with exceptionally broad permissions for use.’
BeReal was launched three years ago as a way for social media users to post unfiltered photos of themselves once a day.
It has often been dubbed the ‘anti-Instagram’, with users only given two minutes to take a snap at a random time of day, leaving no time to overthink.
While BeReal positively advocates for people to be their true selves, it is this very thing that Avast sees as a potential danger to users.
Cyber security experts warn that BeReal users could unknowingly reveal private information when rushed to take a quick picture against the clock
BeReal’s Terms of Service: Any so-called ‘globally shared content’ can be distributed non-exclusively and ‘worldwide’ without royalties. This is the alternative to ‘friends only’ content
What is BeReal?
BeReal was created by Alexis Barreyat, a developer based in Paris.
The premise is simple – everyday at a different time, users are notified to capture and share a photo in two minutes.
Users must use the in-app camera, which simultaneously snaps a photo with the front and rear facing cameras.
Like other social media apps, you can follow friends and see their photos in your main feed.
Alternatively, you can search through a Discovery page, where you can explore photos taken by users you do not follow.
If you miss the two minute window, you can post late, but can’t see your friends’ photos until you post your own.
Mr Williams says that users could unknowingly reveal private information when rushed to take a quick picture against the clock.
This could be anything from personal objects, to the layout of a home or even the private contents of a company computer.
To top it off, pictures of people from outside your friendship group are often visible in the ‘Discovery’ section of the app.
If location tracking is still switched on, Mr Williams suggests the app could potentially be misused for stalking or profiling.
‘This model can result in sharing sensitive information such as the contents of a computer screen or on a company whiteboard, or privacy invasive photos of people who have not opted-in to the service and who may have a right to an expectation of privacy,’ he said.
Jake Moore, Global Security Advisor at ESET, also flagged concerns that rushed photoshoots could be abused by scammers to target victims.
He said: ‘The urgency which fuels BeReal’s unique selling point forces people to post images quickly. Urgency is also a tactic used by scammers to prey on their victims in the hope they may click before they think.
‘Users must therefore remember they are potentially sharing very personal data with the world, especially when they are not in control of when they take the photo so this image could capture anything that is around them in that moment from both cameras on the device.’
Aside from its privacy concerns, Avast claims that BeReal lacks sufficient moderation, which could potentially give rise to harmful content.
While BeReal does not tolerate child sexual exploitation, hate speech, illegal activity and bullying, it is up to the user to flag this.
Avast’s Global Head of Security, Jeff Williams said: ‘Imagine your most compromising and embarrassing moment being attached to an ad campaign’ (file image)
In its terms of service, BeReal says: ‘We are not under an obligation to monitor the Content people share through out Services.
‘Nevertheless, we want our Services to be a place where people can have and express their real selves while feeling safe.’
Even though users can be 13 years old to join BeReal, there are also no parental controls on the app either.
Mr Williams continued: ‘It’s been called out in the press repeatedly that Meta does an inadequate job of content moderation and that’s with throwing hundreds of people at the problem.
‘I’d think that BeReal isn’t going to make anywhere near that investment. So, the result is likely to be that everything bad you’ve ever heard about a lack of content moderation on Facebook, you’re going to see even more of on BeReal.’
Mr Moore added: ‘App terms are lengthy and can often be confusing so people just tend to quickly click to accept them in order to use the app. However, these terms are often filled with conditions where you hand over certain rights and sensitive identifiable information.’
A BeReal spokesman stressed that the platform takes user privacy very seriously, with an easier-to-read version of its terms launched just this week.
It said that content on the platform can only be used for promotional purposes in limited circumstances, adding that users have the right to request it is not used.
BeReal claims its general practice is to reach out to any user beforehand and ensure they are comfortable with their content being distributed.
If a user is uncomfortable with this, BeReal claims that it respects their wishes.
The platform also stated that it has a global support team working 24/7 to respond to user concerns, similar to that used by Quora and Vevo.
This is said to be an area of continued investment as BeReal upsizes its team to ensure all concerns are responded to.
Young women who spend hours scrolling through Instagram are more likely to want cosmetic surgery
Young women are more likely to want to undergo cosmetic surgery if they spend hours scrolling through Instagram, a study has concluded.
Experts from the University of Surrey surveyed 247 Italian women — each aged between 19–32 — about their engagement with Instagram and body dissatisfaction.
Next, each participant was shown one of four videos of Instagram images — with varying degrees of sexualisation — and their associated comments.
Finally, the women completed follow-up questionnaires concerning their level of body dissatisfaction, mood and future cosmetic surgery intentions.
The team found that exposure to sexualised imagery from Instagram tended to increase the women’s levels of body dissatisfaction.
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