Photo: Tada Images (Shutterstock)
BeReal’s popularity is on another level. After all, any app that tops TikTok on the charts is one to take seriously, especially when the app is this simple to use. You see the notification, you take your photos, and you share them to the app. But it begs the question: Does sharing photos of your current location each and every day put yourself in any danger? Is BeReal safe?
BeReal’s status from a privacy perspective
BeReal tracks the date you signed up for the app, the date you last used the app, your late BeReals, the time you post, and RealMoji use (the avatars you see when reacting to posts). That’s not so shocking, as much of that data is also available to anyone with access to your profile. Also unsurprising is how it follows your interactions with other users: BeReal keeps a tally of your friends, friend requests, comments on your friends’ BeReals, as well as the friends you interact with most. If you give BeReal access to your contacts, it will store those contacts.
BeReal collects your device’s IP address, device type, app crashes, and OS version. It sounds a bit invasive, but, unfortunately, that’s pretty standard. Anything you “create” with BeReal, the company collects. That includes photos, RealMojis, and comments. It isn’t clear whether that also includes deleted content, so be aware of that.
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Things start to get a bit more concerning when it comes to geolocation data. BeReal gives you the choice to post your location when sharing to the app, as well as the ability to find your friends with the app. Because of those features, if you give BeReal permission to use your location, it can store your geolocation at any time, even when you aren’t sharing the location in a post. In order to avoid that location collection, you’ll need to deny BeReal access to your location at all times.
BeReal claims it does not sell any of your personal data to third parties, except in cases where it has your consent. Note that content, including photos and comments, does not fall under this rule. In fact, according to the terms of service, you give BeReal and its users a 30-year license to share and repurpose your content when you post to the app. That post you share today will be yours again in 2052.
As it stands, using BeReal doesn’t leak your personal information any more than other social media programs. In fact, it seems better than average, if the company really doesn’t sell your personal data to third-parties, unlike other companies (I’m looking at you, Meta and Google). It might help that BeReal is a French company, as the EU has much strict user privacy laws than other countries, such as the U.S.
If you’re already comfortable using major apps like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, you shouldn’t have any real concerns using BeReal.
BeReal from a personal safety perspective
BeReal’s nature makes it a fun way to share the more mundane aspects of your day with your friends, but it also opens up potential safety concerns. After all, the whole idea is to share exactly where you are and what you’re doing within two minutes of receiving the initial notification.
That’s not necessarily a dangerous thing, especially when sharing to close friends. After all, it’s not much different than truthfully answering multiple “wyd” texts at once.
However, BeReal isn’t only for sharing with your close friends. You can add anyone you want to your circle, whether you know them or not. While the easiest thing to do is to add contacts pulled from your address book, you can search for any user on the platform and request to be their friend.
In addition, if you choose, you can share your BeReals to the entire community. Anyone can stumble upon these BeReals through the Discovery tab, where they can react, comment, and request to follow your account. They’ll also see any information you provided in the post. Obviously, that includes any landmarks or defining features in your photo, but also your location. Luckily, BeReal doesn’t let you share your exact location when sharing to the Discovery page.
Not to scare the parents out there any further, but there is also a commenting system. It’s not obvious to non-users at first, because the chat doesn’t pop-up until you react to a post with a RealMoji. However, once you react, you can start commenting and chatting with other users.
The caveat to all this is you can only see other posts when you post a BeReal yourself. But, seeing as that’s an easy endeavor, it’s not much of a safety check on the platform.
Tips for staying safe on BeReal
I’m not here to tell anyone not to use BeReal. It’s a fun app, and one that isn’t particularly creepy from a user data perspective. However, you shouldn’t use it with reckless abandon. Any time you use a service that lets you publish your current location, you should exercise caution.
In my opinion, you shouldn’t use the Discovery feature when posting on BeReal. Sure, it’s fun to contribute to the community, but you’re really putting yourself out there. Unlike Instagram, where you can post about your awesome trip to New York once you’re safely back home, BeReal shows where you are right away, giving up your location to anyone who can see it. My advice is to share each post to your friends only.
Speaking of location, it’s best not to use it. If you must, don’t use your precise location, which will allow anyone who can see the photo to know your true coordinates. Using your general location will at least give you some cover, while, at the same time, sharing more about what you’re up to. You can learn more about the difference between precise and approximate locations in our guide here. As I mentioned earlier, that doesn’t apply to sharing to the Discovery page, since BeReal only lets you share your general location there.
I’d also be meticulous about who I invite into my BeReal circle. I don’t think it’s a good idea to share your daily location with your entire contacts list. Instead, I’d entrust that information to close friends only, the people I’d have no problem sending these photos and locations to in a DM or a text. It’s overcautious, sure, but sometimes staying safe requires playing it safe.
All that said, BeReal can also be an app that promotes safety, or at least one that confirms it. As Lifehacker Managing Editor Meghan Walbert explained to me, some parents are using the app as a “proof of life” check-in for their college-aged kids. They might not get a text or a phone call, but so long as their child routinely posts their BeReal each day, parents will know they are alive and well.
I can sympathize: My mother used to watch for my Skype status to turn green to know I was alright. The point here, kids, is to call your parents.