Jan 19 2022

VCSO – The Creative Channel Adding Considerable Value in OSINT Investigations

VSCO is an online site appearing more and more in the open source investigations being undertaken at NetWatch - This blog explains what it is and why its useful for OSINT

What is VCSO?

VSCO was created in 2011, although did not initially become popular until 2016 when people started noticing its efficiency as a photo-editing app. Formerly known as VSCO Cam, the app describes itself as having a “creator-first philosophy”. The app, which has been found to be a major hit with the millennial generation due to its advanced photo editing tools, allows users to post photographs to their gallery using pre-set filters and effects. The app organises user’s photographs into sections called ‘Studio’, ‘Images’, ‘Collection’ and ‘Journal’. Studio is a private section where users can import the photographs that they want editing before publishing them on the app. Similar to Instagram’s layout, the Images and Collections sections display the user’s photographs in a grid style format on the main profile page. The Journal feature, which is limited to iOS devices, allows users to create blog style posts containing text and images.

What else can the app do?

Users can choose to use the free version of VSCO or to subscribe to the premium version of the app which allows members to use more advanced editing features as well as providing access to photography tutorials and tips.

The primary function of the app is for users to post photographs to their own network but also to use the app to edit and post them to other platforms such as Instagram. Significantly, the app also has a social media side, namely ‘VSCO Discover’. Discover utilises the hashtag and liking mechanic to allow users to discover content best suited to them, although similar to the AI-Driven feature used by TikTok, Discover lets users fall down a rabbit hole of content, which is ideal for those who spend hours looking at content such as mood or vision boards.

What sets it apart?

In terms of layout and functionality, VSCO shares a number of similarities with Instagram. However, what sets VSCO apart from other platforms is the limited social interaction. Users cannot comment on posts and metrics such as likes and follower numbers are not publicly visible. With the growing pressures on young individuals about body image created by social media, users have expressed how refreshing it is to have a platform with no concepts of ‘likes’, popularity or competition. It is likely that anonymity of the app is what attracts so many people of this demographic.

VSCO and OSINT Investigations

VSCO has proven to be fruitful in our OSINT investigations, primarily as all accounts are public and by default, the location information is included with images published on the app. Although, the latter can be disabled within the Privacy Settings on a user’s profile. Current users of Instagram have been found to often use their Instagram bio section to link their VSCO profile in order to gain more traction on their photos. This can be especially beneficial when Instagram accounts are frequently locked down by strict privacy settings. Moreover, in 2019 Forbes reported that nearly 200 million photographs had been posted to Instagram with the hashtag #vscocam, which means that they were edited with the VSCO app rather than Instagram.

For more information on how NetWatch can assist your investigations with OSINT please email us at enquiries@netwatchglobal.com.

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