Ready for Our Close Up

The Unintended Consequences of Using Airtime

Beware!
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Even Zuck uses Airtime.

Forbes freaked out your Betabeat writers recently with an alarmist post about the way Sean & Shawn’s new videochatting service, Airtime, monitors the tool for inappropriate content. Apparently Airtime takes pictures of you sporadically throughout your videochat sessions to make sure there’s no sexy cam action going on (reserve that for “off the record” Gchats, plz).

But the post got us wondering: what are some other issues–privacy-related or not–that you should be wary of when using Airtime? Here are a few we came up with.

1) The automatic privacy settings mean that Airtime can publish to Facebook on your behalf. An item recently popped up in the news feed of The Observer’s news editor that showed who people had met on Airtime. This may or may not be alarming to you, depending on how strict you are about your privacy settings.

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But fret not, fellow Airtimers, you can opt out of this by going to your Airtime settings and unchecking “Publish Open Graph Actions.”

2. Bumping into people you barely know/who are professional competitors/you made out with at a party once/ you are purposefully not friends with on Facebook. Take, for example, when we tried out Airtime on launch day and ran into Alyson Shontell of Business Insider. It was a lovely conversation but we were both forced to acknowledge that hey, we occasionally write things for competing websites. Also, she nexted us. But then it reconnected us! Which was really awkward! Luckily we then had the chance to next her, because, as she put it, “karma is a bitch on Airtime.”

3. That whole nexting thing. It’s not like Chatroulette, where nexting has no consequences. If you next someone, you probably know them, have known them or will know them–or else Airtime wouldn’t have connected you in the first place. There comes a point in the conversation when you’ve run out of shared interests to talk about, an embarrassed lull creeps up, and you have to say something like, “I’m going to next you but not because I don’t like you I think you’re perfectly nice I just am done speaking with you now have a lovely day!” *next*

4. This is perhaps the worst unintended consequence of using Airtime: It automatically signs you into Facebook chat. So if you’re using Airtime, and then you close out of it and go back to your Facebook page, you will still be signed in to Facebook chat. Personally, this reporter hates Facebook chat because the only people who are on it are people from high school you haven’t talked to in years and who want to send you video chat requests when you literally haven’t seen their faces since 2005.

Okay, you’ve all been warned.

Follow Jessica Roy on Twitter or via RSS. jroy@observer.com