Streaming privacy


by
1718w

These days, it feels as if everyone’s a livestreamer. Everyone at least to entertain the idea of livestreaming their videogame forrays, and who can disagree with that.

No longer do people have to rely on abstruse software like XSplit and OBS, as graphics card manufacturer bundle their own streaming software with drivers. HDMI splitters are no longer required to livestream your console sessions, as they let you stream natively.

While software and hardware makers are slowly adapting the the new fad, their reaction to the privacy challenge posed by livestreaming has essentially been nothing.

While I can’t fix the problems for you, I can at least make you aware of them by addressing some of them.

Scenarios/environments

  • Browsers
    • General:
      • Search/Address bar autocomplete
      • Recent or frequent websites
    • Chrome: name
    • Microsoft Edge
      • Display photo
      • Default language
      • Used to show full name
  • Web forms: autocompleted or pre-filled fields
  • Google: country
  • Clock: timezone (based on time) and more specific location (based on date format)
  • Windows
    • Recently or frequently used files, folders, and programs
    • Autocomplete
    • And yes, it’s usually more “compromising files” than personally identifiable information
    • Notifications and pop-ups (for screen capture)
The new-ish user tab in Chrome reveals your first name, which sucks for livestreaming privacy.
The new-ish user tab in Chrome reveals your first name, which sucks for livestreaming privacy.
Shows the File Explorer Options menu with a dedicated Privacy section.
Be sure to untick all the Privacy settings in your Windows installation's File Explorer Options.
The Indexing Options menu with the indexed lcoations.
Go to Indexing Options and click “Modify“ to specify which locations you want and do not want your Start Menu to index and feature when you hit your Start button. When you’re done, click “Advanced” and hit “Rebuild” for the changes to take effect. You’re better off using Launchy anyway.

Games

  • User and server IP
  • Names
    • Username
    • Full name of friends (and friends of friends)
      • Eg “Real ID” on PSN and Battle.net
  • E-mail address, especially in log-in menus

Programming

  • Username (PATH) in editor and terminal chrome
Editors like Atom and Sublime Text reveal the PATH which can contain your real-life name.
Terminals and editors like Sublime Text and Atom in this case will reveal the file path in the window chrome. This will show your username on Windows—along with other potential information in the PATH dir. You can use a package like custom-title, but you’ll be putting your faith in an external piece of software that may let you and your privacy down.

“Streamer mode”

A “streamer mode” for videogame consoles won’t work, because streaming detection won’t work with people use capture cards instead of native broadcasting features—although it does go a long way.

One could, however enable a manual streaming mode switch, but this would no longer be automated—nor opt-out—which could still lead to inadvertent privacy disasters.

Twitch Clips

Twitch released an “instant replay” service for their platform:

Note that you can see the clipper in the top left corner.

While convenient, entertaining, useful, and all sorts of good things, clips also serve to capture on-stream moments from VODs1 that the streamer later went on to delete. Lirik himself—one of the biggest streamers on Twitch—has accidentally revealed private information on a number of occasions, after which he went on to delete his VOD.

To repeat the point, even one of the most popular and seasoned Twitch streamers makes mistakes from time to time, and it’s absurd that there isn’t better accounting of this basic fact about human beings.

I want out

After much googling and thinking there was no way to even get clips deleted, it turns out there is:

Q: Can broadcasters removed clips created of their content?

A: Broadcasters cannot remove Clips they have not created, but they can request removal through the Clip report function found in the gear icon.

Q: I found a Clip that violates Twitch’s Community Guidelines/Terms of Service. What do I do?

A: If you need to report a Clip, you can click on the gear icon in the video player to access the report tool:

Screenshot of the pop-out menu from clicking the gear icon.

“How to use clips”

I have re-written this post a million times by now after a bunch of research, but let’s start with this “feature”.

This is a dumb UX for such an important feature. Is there a way to disable Clips of your stream by the way? Nope.

While we may defend the feature—or not—we have to recognize the fact that some demographics of streamers will be forced into a perpetual game of creepster whack-a-mole.

This is what the reporting interface looks like for viewers—ie people who aren’t the streamer:

A reporting interface that shows no direct reporting option for maliciously recorded clips. It only states that “Tell us your concern about this content so that we can review it to determine whether there has been a violation of the terms of service. (Abuse of this feature is violation of the terms of service.)’

This reporting interface is clearly designed for reporting streamers, not the behaviour of clippers. Can you tell at a quick glance how you would report a maliciously recorded Clip? I can’t.

I’m going to assume that you have to pick “Other Terms of Service Violation” at the bottom, given the literally parenthetical comment in the feature description.

I am happy that there is a feature that nominally exists to report malicious clipping of a streamer, but who will ever follow through on reporting a Clip with this reporting workflow?


Remember when I wrote that I had re-written this post a million times?

Well, one of the things I learned was that Twitch’s own Clip guide is fucking wrong. Here is what the FAQ says, as quoted before:

Q: Can broadcasters removed clips created of their content?

A: Broadcasters cannot remove Clips they have not created, but they can request removal through the Clip report function found in the gear icon.

And this is what it looks like when a streamer click the gear icon on a Clip from their stream clipped by someone else:

Two options available: “Remove All Clips’ and “Remove Clip’

And you’ll never believe what happens when you click “Remove Clip”; the fucking Clip is removed! Don’t ask me what happens when you click Remove All Clips.

I only discovered this through research and experimentation, and using the Clip list for my channel.

Repeat after me: reporting tool can never be an afterthough for any platform.


The Clips feature has no opt-out feature2, so you’re drafted into this panopticon by using Twitch. Most people will appreciate the Clips feature, but it doesn’t work for everyone, and it doesn’t have to. Let these people who feel at risk to opt out and give them a piece of mind. Surely they’ll feel more inclined to stream if they’re safer on the platform, no? This seems like a win-win for everyone.

On top of that, I think a basic, sane measure would be to automatically purge all Clips related to a VOD when it’s deleted. There’s a reason people delete the VODs, and while VODs expire, Clips go on forever.

Q: Do Clips ever expire?

A: No, just like Highlights, Clips will never expire!

Yay!

Oh great, an API

On Jan 11, Twitch announced a new Clips API to much fanfare:

I was initially excited about this and toyed around with the API for a bit. I wanted to make some streamers happy by showing them a Top 5 list of their most popular Clips, but with one streamer, the only female one I tested it with, the top clips were, let’s just say, really fucking creepy.

And granted, the Clip may not have been made for wider distribution beyond the one user—the view count was very low for this fairly obscure streamer’s clip—but the bottom line is that the new Clips API is now another thing for streamers to worry about, vulnerable ones in particular, as always.

Is this a great feature for those people? I think we should consider our feelings in the same context as when companies like Facebook expand the search API for their platforms.

Have fun perusing the list of Clips for your channel.

A Clips section

As of Feb 27, channels now have a dedicated Clips section.

Oddshot.tv

A competing service who were first with the “instant replay” feature are Oddshot.tv. They don’t provide a native takedown feature either, but you can apparently shoot “Joe” an e-mail, and he’ll take a look at it. That is, if you’re the streamer getting clipped, not a user who accidentally captured something compromising.

And there’s no “Alice” to look over your request if you happen to be a female support rep to handle a gendered situation.

Not that videogame communities has any issues of gender, of course.

As if Oddshot’s outreach measures weren’t absurd enough3, you can apparently sending them an e-mail to procure a key for Oddshot.tv’s clandestine API.

  1. VODs are the archived videos of a livestreams. After a policy change, they expire after a certain amount of time. ↩︎

  2. Some say the feature is available exclusively to Partners, for what it’s worth. ↩︎

  3. Reddit is not made for customer support nor a knowledge base. ↩︎