Live-Streaming Apps; What We Aren't Talking About

There are many articles circulating the web about new live-streaming video technologies like Meerkat. These tremendous apps make it possible for users to stream real time video from their phone to the internet for all to view, turning every individual into a real-time video-journalist.   Brands and entertainment properties have also jumped into the fray with these technologies.  For example, Jimmy Fallon live-streams some of his show practices on his Periscope channel and, in late March, Mountain Dew live-streamed a hang out for fans to view and get rewarded with Mountain Dew swag.  Of course, most legal articles about live-steaming apps focus on the intellectual property and piracy issues raised by use of these apps.  Indeed, sports franchises, which make a huge portion of their income from selling exclusive rights to broadcast their events in real time, are already noodling on these issues. Sports franchises typically protect their broadcast interests by restricting who can bring live broadcasting equipment into their facilities. However, that becomes more challenging when the only necessary equipment is an ordinary cell phone. Less talked about, but equally important, is how these technologies may increase the real-time risk of exposure of a wide range of sensitive or private information in the workplace. Companies’ potentially controversial business practices, legally-sensitive situations like employee firings, or internal programs and trade secrets could be revealed to the public instantly. The apps could also create risks for individual employees privacy, as everyday workplace activity could be streamed to the general public in real-time.

Of course, some of these risks have existed since the advent of built-in cell phone video cameras. But these new apps eliminate the delay between when the video is filmed and when it becomes available to the global public. By the time someone is seen filming, the video is already streaming, and rather than preventing exposure, the company may have to focus on cleaning up the mess. Even the most devoted employees could inadvertently expose corporate secrets without the ability to screen and edit videos before publication.

I contend that these technologies may re-raise BYOD (bring your own device) issues for the workplace. Should these technologies be forbidden on workplace devices?   Should all devices containing these technologies be forbidden at work? Would the NLRB agree with these types of workplace restrictions? At the very least, employers may need to implement training programs to make their employees aware of these risks. Though individual businesses’ needs will vary and by no means will all use of these apps be problematic, the advent of this technology highlights the importance of companies having, and regularly updating, a clear internet and social media policy.