Airtime, Photographing You While You Chat, Faces Privacy Questions [Update]

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Sean Parker's new video chat enterprise has found itself in a media storm at launch, but there's now a genuine bolt of lightning sparking in the midst of it: Accusations from Forbes that Airtime secretly snaps photos of you while you're web chatting with a stranger, with your own webcam, and then uploads them to its servers along with recordings of the conversation. Why would this be? To ensure site safety, giving moderators the chance to look at evidence if any one user flags a complaint against another. Essentially Airtime is trying to avoid the sexual problems that beset Chatroulette, but sees this system as part of the process. The question is if this bothers modern Net users, or those who particularly desire privacy to be maintained--and raises issues of security concerning how the data is stored at Airtime. Google and Skype do not use similar technology, though they are less centered around casual group chats than Airtime.

Update: Airtime's been in touch through its representatives to update us on this news. According to the site it does not record audio or video, but it does take "random, periodic snapshots of conversations between users who don't already know each other," much as we'd said it does. The company says it's a "policy that we are proud of and believes serves our users well."

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