A Risk You Need to Know Now: YouNow

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Video chatting, streaming and messaging have taken a new approach with the app Younow.younow logo

According to the app store, Younow “is the best way to watch and create interactive live stream videos. [Users can] discover talented broadcasters and chat live with people from around the world for free.” The app is rated 12+ due to:

  • infrequent/mild alcohol
  • tobacco or drug use or references
  • infrequent/mild profanity or crude humor
  • infrequent/mild realistic violence

In order to view the videos, however, you only need a smartphone. As long as you can download an app from the App Store, you can access hundreds of live, uncensored feeds. That’s what I did.

Upon accessing the app, I clYouNow 2icked on the video stream for user ‘BruhItsZach’ from Texas and what did I see? Three teenage boys fighting. User comments flooded the comment box with ‘wow y’all are rude omg’ to ‘roberts so annoying.’ Could they have been playing around, making a joke? Yes. The point is – with a click of a button I was looking into the user’s bedroom; filled with soccer signs and photos hanging on the wall, viewing along with the 4,045 other viewers actively watching. I checked back a few minutes later and the kids were answering questions – in real-time – that commenters ask.

I’m a random person, in South Carolina, watching this live stream. Who else is watching? Who knows? That’s the scary part.

Like most people, I read online reviews prior to staying in a hotel, eating at restaurants or buying certain products. Younow was no different; I wanted to see what users thought before downloading the app. Although most of the reviews said the app was great, a few comments raised red flags for me.

One review from July 2015 stated: “The app is great and all but you seriously need to pay more attention to the people you band [sic]. Some guy was telling my cousin and I to take our shirts off and when we didn’t he got mad, made a nasty comment and left.”

Although the user was disgruntled because they had been banned, the real concern is the user who was encouraging the broadcasters to undress.

A second review caught my attention (July 22, 2015): “…I have been suspended on my phone for quite some time now, I know why, I was on the hashtag Girls and this creepy guy had told me to twerk… I said no several times and he made a false report…”

Again, the worry should be on the user issuing abusive text commands, not the broadcaster’s suspension from the app.

What are the risks?

The risks associated with this app are abundant regarding the safety of children. The app requires users to be 12 years old. A few dangers associated include:

  • Children filming themselves inside their homes
  • Bullying on the live chat
  • Children are being viewed/followed online by adults
  • Adults encouraging users (who are videoing) to perform inappropriate and illegal activities (as stated in the reviews above)
  • Privacy issues
  • Children are subjected to profanity and other obscenities while viewing the live streams – it is unedited

The Risks To Your Company

The risks do not stop with minors publicizing personal information, the risks can and will stretch to employees.

Users who are videoing themselves are, knowingly or unknowingly, releasing personal, identifying information within seconds to thousands of people.

For instance, a disgruntled employee could take to the app and – in real time – discuss their distaste with your company for hundreds, even thousands of viewers. As previously stated, business information could be leaked to viewers of any age, located anywhere in the world. See the potential threats?

In a recent webinar, Firestorm Chief Intelligence Officer, Karen Masullo, discussed a few details of the app.

Here is the Firestorm breakdown of Younow:you now dash

  • Allows anyone to live stream – users can share a “live link” of their stream for anyone to view.
  • Viewers can communicate with the user live streaming by typing in a chat box.
  • These are known as “commands.”
  • Commands have been seen to be: distasteful, if not illegal.
  • Thousands of viewers are watching at any given time.
  • This tool is dangerous for not only children and parents, but for employers as well.
    • If an employee records a live session one night, the potential of business information to be leaked is there.

Social media platforms stretch far beyond Facebook and Twitter, but the potential risks prove just as high on these ‘new tools.’ How can you mitigate risks and protect your company?

Building an Intelligence Network

  • In order to understand risk and put those risks into context, you must monitor social media behavior by building an intelligence network.
  • Monitoring must go beyond simple Google Alerts – Google alerts may notify a user of brand mentions, but will not give a focused, detailed report of social media activity regarding all conversations around a brand, whether the brand name is mentioned or not. These mentions may include workplace bullying, potential violence, illegal activity or other threats to business.
  • What you need: a holistic approach to monitoring involving senior-level management who understand the social media network and its workings.

First, Set a BaselineJuly 2015 Cover

  • What is the conversation about?
    • Define the Context
    • How and where do people discuss it?
    • What are the indicators that may signal a threat or risk to your business?

Next, Identify Deviations 

  • What is the “norm?”
    • Understand the day-to-day mentions that would be considered normal.
    • Understanding norm will allow you to understand deviations, i.e. an unusual spike in brand mentions.

For Employers, What is Protected?

  • Off-duty conduct laws. A number of states have laws that prohibit employers from disciplining or firing employees for activities they pursue on their own time. Although some of these laws were originally intended to protect smokers from discrimination, others protect any employee conduct that doesn’t break the law — which might include employee blogging or posting.
  • Protections for political views. A handful of states protect employees from discrimination based on their political views or affiliation. In these states, disciplining an employee for a political post (for example, one that endorses a candidate or cause) could be illegal.
  • Protections for “whistle-bloggers.” An employee who raises concerns about safety hazards or illegal activity at work may be protected as a whistle-blower (called a “whistle-blogger” if the concerns are raised in a blog).
  • Prohibitions on retaliation. Many employment laws protect employees from retaliation for claiming that their rights have been violated. If an employee complains online about workplace discrimination, harassment, violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act, wage and hour violations, or other legal transgressions, that employee may be protected from disciplinary action.
  • Concerted activity protections. The National Labor Relations Act and similar state laws protect employees’ rights to communicate with each other about the terms and conditions of employment, and to join together — in a union or otherwise — to bring concerns about these issues to their employer. Under these laws, an employee who is fired for posting about low wages, poor benefits, a difficult manager, or long work hours could have a plausible legal claim.

Read more about creating an intelligence network by downloading our brief, or by contacting Firestorm.

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