Facebook New App Already Has Safety Issues

Facebook is often plagued with claims that teenagers are leaving it as their parents and grandparents join. Now the social network has launched an app exclusively for 21-year-olds and under.

Lifestage, which is at present available to iPhone users in the US, encourages its users to create short biographical video clips. The app asks its users to record clips of their “embarrassed face” or their “best friend” to build a profile.

It is completely separate from Facebook itself. Videos are not shown to Facebook friends but to other users of the app who attend local high schools, who see them in a feed.

By being exclusively for high school users, Lifestage is meant to mimic Facebook’s university origins, when it became a grassroots sensation by allowing users to check out classmates’ profiles, gradually launching at one institution at a time. While those over 21 can download Lifestage, they will not be able to see others’ videos.

Safety concerns

The app’s launch has, however, sparked privacy concerns: there is no age verification, anybody can claim to be from a local school, and there are no settings to control who sees your videos. Users have their own high school listed on the page, and are also encouraged to give out information such as their Facebook or Instagram account so they can be contacted.

One reviewer on the App Store said they “don’t like how much information you have to give out”, while another called it “sorta creepy”.

On the app’s page, Facebook warns: “Everything you post in Lifestage is always public and viewable by everyone, inside and outside your school. There is no way to limit the audience of your videos. We can’t confirm that people who claim to go to a certain school actually go to that school. All videos you upload to your profile are fully public content.”

Users can be blocked and reported if they are suspected of spying on students, however.

Will teenagers actually use it?

Lifestage was designed by Michael Sayman, a 19-year-old prodigy who made thousands designing gaming apps before Mark Zuckerberg hired him. Sayman said he spent two years creating an app that people of his age would want to use, and wanted to recreate the local feeling Facebook had when it launched in American universities in 2004.

“Lifestage looks back at the days of Facebook from 2004 and explores what can be done if we went back and turned the crank all the way forward to 2016 with video-first,” Sayman said.

The app is seen as Facebook’s latest attempt to crush Snapchat, one of the world’s most popular apps for teenagers.

It is unclear whether the Lifestage will launch in the UK or on Android phones. Facebook has a track record of launching experimental apps, such as Paper and Slingshot, which have only been made available to American users and are subsequently shut down.