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Privacy, risk and trolls: Dealing with the security challenges of YouTube fame

Joan Goodchild | June 24, 2016
It seems a new YouTube star is born every day lately with thousands now making money and pursuing full-time careers in online video. But the popularity that comes with millions of viewers is not without its privacy challenges

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ANAHEIM - With over a billion users and millions of hours of content, YouTube is the second most-visited web site on the internet and has seen its popularity explode over the last decade. YouTube officials say the media force of the online video-sharing site shows no signs of slowing as growth in watch time has climbed at least 50 percent year over year for the last three years.

These days, millions of people are logging on daily to watch videos, and it is launching careers and paying big bucks for some creators who have managed to net millions of subscribers. Subscribers watch these YouTubers with the same kind of loyalty a generation before them watched popular television shows.

They log on to check out their favorite YouTube content, which can include anything from family reality shows to gaming content to lifestyle tips and tricks. The amount of content and subjects are endless.

Fans watch, make comments and share the videos.  Advertisers easily recognize the power of YouTube, particularly among younger demographics, and are making deals daily with popular YouTube stars. Many YouTubers make six or seven figure salaries off of the content they are creating.

CSO spent part of this week in Anaheim at VidCon, an annual event for video creators and their fans, attending sessions to learn more about the privacy and security challenges these YouTube success stories face each day.

Unlike television and movie stars, these online celebrities face a different kind of privacy challenge because, by nature of the work they do, they are expected to be accessible and to interact with fans.

Keeping things private and running a successful video log (vlog) are not exactly two compatible goals. This is because, according to LaToya Forever, an online personality with two popular vlogs on YouTube, one of the secrets of YouTube success is keeping things "100 percent real and genuine." This means broadcasting everything from adorable kid moments to family drama for the world to see.

"Sometimes it's hard to wade through and decide what to share and what not to share," said Nikki Phillipi, a lifestyle vlogger with over a million subscribers.

One way to ensure nothing goes online that isn't considered carefully is to delay posting, said Katie Bratayley (not her real last name), a popular mom vlogger with a YouTube channel that has more than 2 million subscribers.  Katie and her family dealt with bringing one of the most difficult private issues public last year when her son, Caleb, died unexpectedly.

"We're two days behind on what we post which gives us time to think about if we should we post this or should it stay private."
Mindy McKnight, a mother of six with children with daughters who are now running their own YouTube channels, said her family understands the rules of posting because she holds them to an informal contract around privacy.


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