BeReal was launched in December 2019 and gained popularity in early 2022. The app sends a notification to every user at the same time once a day encouraging users to post an image, a ‘BeReal’. The app focuses on authenticity and is a stark contrast to the social media platforms encouraging users to only post the best and most aesthetic parts of their lives.
Once the app sends a notification, users have 2 minutes to post a BeReal (though they are allowed to post a ‘late BeReal’ at any time throughout the day until the next notification). Users can only see their friend’s BeReals once they have posted their own. The BeReal’s, if location information is consented, also post the location of the image taken.
The sporadic notifications once a day often capture users in unsuspecting situations: cooking dinner, commuting, studying, working and the other mundane aspects of daily life. It provides a unique take on social media, and allows friends to engage with each other over the small on-goings of their lives.
Currently, users are set to default private, which means that only their added friends can view, react and comment on their BeReals (once they have posted their own). A user can choose to post their BeReal to the Discovery page, which is a randomised page for each user, displaying a variety of public BeReals. Unfortunately, even if a user posts a BeReal to the public page, it is only viewable on the Discovery page, and cannot be viewed via searching their profile.
So, as it stands, BeReal has strict privacy settings and does not even let a user’s own friends view their BeReal until they have posted themselves. As such, the app itself is not likely to provide a useful source of intelligence for OSINT investigators.
However, as the app continues to grow and is pushed to evolve, it may develop more publicly available content. For example, users are able to share their BeReal’s on other platforms, such as Instagram Stories, which can be available for public viewing. As a consequence, open-source social media investigations are already seeing value from the rising trend.
This, paired with the rumours that Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat all have their own versions of the feature in development, hint that posting daily images may start to be the new age of social media. BeReal is set to be the driving force behind social media users posting more authentic and ‘real’ content online.
If this trend continues, and evolves into a more public sphere, it could provide a new wave of information for OSINT investigators: a daily insight into an individual’s life. Here at NetWatch we’re certainly keeping our eye on the app and growing trend.
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