Sunday, April 5, 2015

Livestreaming your life

[UPDATE] Since I first posted this, Twitter has swiftly updated the app with some new privacy features. You can now broadcast and only your followers can comment.

The past few weeks have seen the meteoric rise of livestreaming apps Periscope and Meerkat. Both apps allow the user to instantly turn their smartphone camera into an instant live broadcast which is then available to view for anyone using the app. Currently on Periscope there is no way to keep videos private or targeted to select individuals. There is also a chat screen which overlays the broadcast in which any of the viewers can comment on. These comments as you can probably guess can get out of hand quickly. Meerkat has a bit more privacy control.

Periscope app by Twitter

In only 24 hours of testing out the app, I have seen some really interesting and also some very frightening broadcasts. I was able to watch this morning with my son as fellow educator Katrina Keene broadcasted live from her vacation at Disney World. My son and I also watched a dairy farmer herd his cows from his farm in Alabama. Even big companies and networks are jumping on board quickly. You can easily find a number of news outlets around the US broadcasting live behind the scenes. The members of Good Morning America were chatting with their viewers this morning before their Easter broadcast.



With the debut of any new technology access there will always be those who only think of themselves or flat out break the rules. There have already been stories about those who are using Meerkat and Periscope to broadcast video live from movie theaters which is a copyright catastrophe. Last night while looking at various broadcasts going on, I stumbled across one that simply said "Vegas." While I thought it was going to be someone walking around the Las Vegas strip recording the sights, it turned out to be of an older babysitter or au pair talking to her many viewers while drinking. The children were in the background watching a movie but the broadcaster panned the camera over to them a few times. What bothered me the most about this (besides the drinking while watching children) was how casual our society has become about opening up not only themselves to the world but also broadcasting others without any consent. Looking at the list of available broadcasts you'll see a number of them occurring in public spaces. People are broadcasting live all over the world now from anywhere they feel necessary. I am not one to stick my head in the sand and pretend things don't exist, but in this instance perhaps back to the drawing board is more appropriate. Even as a technology coordinator who lives and breathes all manner of tech, this is a new frightening reality.

As a parent I try very hard not to post photos or videos of my son on open networks. He has no idea why he would be posted let alone what types of issues could arise from doing so. These new types of apps scare me mostly as a parent (and uncle) at the negative possibilities and what we as a society deem appropriate anymore. I have no doubt as with any technology that there will be some amazing uses for Meerkat or Periscope in the education sphere, and I hope to see them. I also wish that on the flip side, we as a society wake up to the fact that not every waking moment needs to be published.

[UPDATE] Since I first posted this, Twitter has swiftly updated the app with some new privacy features. You can now broadcast and only your followers can comment.