Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Digital Face Time: As Good As the Real Thing?

It used to be that “face time” meant just that.FaceTime icon

Two or more people – i.e., actual human beings – would come together in close proximity and engage in some form of interaction.

No longer. Face time now means interaction with an electronic display. Somewhere on the other side of that display – or perhaps on the other side of the world – is a living, breathing person.

“Now your smile goes even further,” says Apple, touting its FaceTime app. “FaceTime makes it possible to talk, smile, and laugh with anyone on an iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, or Mac with a built-in FaceTime camera. So you can catch up, hang out, joke around, and stay in touch with just a click…. It’s easy. It’s fun. And it’s almost as good as being there.”

The operative phrase is “almost as good.” There are those who think an actual human face is an important part of face time. Call us old-school or luddites – but you’d better call us on a rotary phone because that’s what we might be still be using.

Say “Videotelephony” Three Times Fast

FaceTime was formally unveiled by then-Apple CEO Steve Jobs at the 2010 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Apple had purchased the name FaceTime from FaceTime Communications, which happily changed its name to Actiance Inc. after pocketing a mountain of cash.

FaceTime is a type of technology known as videotelephony. Which is a fancy way of saying “that cool video phone on The Jetsons.”

Growing up I loved The Jetsons. Every time George chatted with Jane or Mr. Spacely on that amazing drop-down video screen, my eyes would widen in wonder.

Well, the future has arrived, and I’m still amazed.

The Future Is Calling

What I found even more amazing was that videotelephony is almost a century late in arriving. As far back as the 1920s, people were being promised that picturephone technology was right around the corner.

From the Smithsonian Magazine:

Television wasn’t immediately envisioned as a broadcast medium, but rather was imagined as point-to-point two-way talkers like those in the classic 1927 film Metropolis. The videophone was hyped at both the 1939 and 1964 New York World’s Fair and as recently as the early 2000s communications companies were still making concept videos for landline videophone machines that today look laughably anachronistic.

But then out of nowhere the videophone was suddenly just here. Without much warning videophone was a reality. Just not in a form that companies like AT&T were promising us for nearly a century. Rather than acting as its own independent appliance in the home, we have videophone capabilities embedded within our devices — our computers and phones now often have little cameras seamlessly hidden inside. And the technology is almost a secondary consideration within the applications we use for video: we have Skype, Gchat Video among a host of other less well known apps.

Sorry, Wrong Number

Although Apple claims “a phone call now comes with a friendly face” and you can see and talk “without a hitch,” some aren’t convinced.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation only gave FaceTime a score of 5 (of a possible 7) for “secure messaging.” The app lost points because “users can’t verify contacts’ identity and because the code is not open to independent review.”

Neither of those concerns exist with old-fashioned face time. You know who you’re talking to – at least usually. And there’s no code involved – other than body language.

Plus there’s the added benefit that you can actually shake hands, or hug, or simply bask in the presence of real-live human contact.


Jay Reeves a/k/a The Risk Man is an attorney who has practiced North Carolina and South Carolina. Formerly he was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. Contact him at

About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

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