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Up Periscope

Up Periscope

The closest thing to teleportation” - that’s how I have heard Twitter’s live video streaming app Periscope described.  If you haven’t tried it yet, picture the scene.  A close friend of mine recently completed a charity cycle – 1,700 miles on a tandem from Africa to Yorkshire.  The challenge brought home that “Africa is on our doorstep”, raising over £50,000 to help build a primary school in Kenya.  I felt as though I was there with the cyclists along the way by following them on Periscope.  I downloaded the app and linked it to my Twitter account.  Then came the now familiar whistle alerting me that the guys were broadcasting live.  Sitting at my desk over lunch I watched the tandem set off, as my friend commenced his journey through southern Spain.  A surreal experience to watch the team in real time and, better still, to show my support by tapping the screen, literally “showing the love” with a stream of hearts (the Periscope equivalent of Facebook ‘likes’).

As the challenge went on, that evermore familiar whistle would sound around 9.00pm each evening and I would proudly watch the team report back events from the day’s cycle as they progressed through the Pyrenees and home to the UK.  With each broadcast, which is available for replay for 24 hours, you could follow other supporters logging on and sending their support with messages and hearts on screen.  The sense of teleportation comes from the ability to comment live on the Periscope stream, as the guys in front of the camera can respond instantly to your questions and comments as you post them.  I know that we’re all used to Facetime and Skype to communicate with friends and family on the other side of the world but this felt unique, to be able to do so collectively online over social media right there in the moment.

Which, true to type(!), got me thinking about the legal implications of this latest social media platform and its place in the world of work.  I now get almost daily updates on Periscope as my Twitter followers log on to join up for the first time.  Are there business benefits of Periscope?  I certainly think so.  As Instagram, Facebook and Twitter enable businesses to bring their brand values to life, what better way than Periscope to cascade the corporate message online live to potentially thousands of followers.  New product launches, exhibitions, presentations and even catwalk shows – streamed live as they happen.  But, naturally there are the corresponding legal risks.  As a proponent and user of social media for business myself, I never think that the legal risks should outweigh the business benefits, but Periscope did get me thinking along the following lines:

  • Privacy.  Like most social media platforms, the power is in broadcasting publicly.  Each Periscope broadcast will usually be made public, although it can be marked private to followers or specific users only.  The courts and employment tribunals have got very familiar with social media cases and will no longer have any truck with an employee who claims to have an expectation of privacy on social media.  An inappropriate Periscope broadcast online will therefore be absolutely admissible in the event of subsequent disciplinary action or tribunal litigation. An added risk of Periscope is that, by the very nature of live streaming, the video footage is out there instantly and can’t be edited.
  • Misconduct.  It doesn’t take the most vivid imagination to think of how inappropriate use of a company-issued smart phone with a video camera could get an employee into hot water even on the tamest of office nights out!  The fact that the Periscope video footage “self destructs” (at least for public viewing purposes) after 24 hours feels a bit like the cases we have seen on SnapChat Photos.  Periscope settings allow users to store the video footage on their smart phone device and, if company owned, these should be readily accessible to the IT department when gathering evidence for misconduct.  Like every social media disciplinary case, remember how difficult it is truly to delete the electronic evidence trail after a post has made its way into other followers’ timelines.
  • Reputation.  Periscope viewers can post their comments in real time on the video.  These then show when the video is replayed by other viewers.  An inappropriate comment attributed to an employee or, worse still, their employer, on the live stream could be just as damaging to reputation as an offensive comment on a mainstream social media platform.
  • Copyright.  I have seen a number of followers in my network streaming concerts and the like live on Periscope.  This begs the question of whether you can stream what you don’t own.  I think that there is a risk of copyright breaches where users film an arts or sporting event and put it out there on the web on Periscope.  Gone are the days of holding a lighter in the air at a music concert.  Instead the audience can’t seem to resist holding a smart phone and filming a concert, only to post it back on YouTube and Facebook.  Periscope takes it further, as the event is streamed live for all to see.  There have been reports in the US of filming being banned at gigs and pay-per-view TV events to avoid ‘pirate’ video footage.

So, if the saying that “what is whispered in private rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops” is true, it is perhaps no more so than on Periscope.  The usual risks of social media are perhaps supercharged with unedited live video footage free for all to see as and when it happens.  Should I tell you to dust off your social media policy and get it updated? Or have you heard that before!?

Follow me on Twitter & Periscope @DavidMorganLLB

David Morgan
Partner

LChalmers