University of New Hampshire (UNH) students have received invitations to join the app, Wildfire, via their UNH email addresses from firstname.lastname@example.org. Because the app is not affiliated with UNH, it is unclear how Wildfire is obtaining UNH emails.
“Although we don’t publish the student directory to the public, students use their UNH email addresses to communicate with individuals, organizations and companies outside of UNH, which means student email addresses are out in the public domain and can be collected for advertising purposes,” UNH Information Security Compliance Program Manager Rori Boyce-Werner said.
Students that choose to join the app are welcomed into a local community of students. The app’s goal is helping students get in touch with one another by spreading information relevant to campus.
“Existing social networks are limited to your network of friends and family. We built Wildfire as a much more effective way to communicate with the people right around you in real-time,” Wildfire states on its About page.
In order to use the app, students must create a profile by entering their school email, graduating year, name, emergency contact and public username. Once a student creates an account, they may post about campus; each post is categorized under chatter, safety, tips, events, campus crush, student problems, buy/ sell or memes.
The status of a student’s post can be upgraded to an alert, which is displayed on a separate page based on user interaction and relevance. Wildfire displays about one to two alerts per day, according to the Wildfire website.
Wildfire’s website also says that they have a “moderation team” that regulates and verifies content before it is upgraded to an alert. They also say that if their moderation team cannot confirm a post through “current journalism practices,” they mark the alert as “unconfirmed.”
“Our goal is to build a safer, more informed communities focused on spreading useful, factual, and timely information,” Wildfire says.