Why (and How) to Turn Off Socialcam on Facebook

Friends — I beg of you — TURN OFF SHARING for the Socialcam app on Facebook.

Socialcam is a feed of user-generated videos. Just by clicking on a Socialcam link in Facebook and accepting their app, every Socialcam video you watch from then on is shared to your Facebook friends automatically. The content is questionable, the titles of the videos are often salacious, and the images it posts in your timeline can be downright embarrassing.

Socialcam offers user-generated video and popular videos from other sites like YouTube. The videos that appear in your Facebook feed are not from a media company vetting the videos, editing them, or (at the very least) showing some scruples about titling the offerings correctly.

Many of the videos are what the industry refers to as click-bait or link-bait: outrageously titled pieces that don't exactly deliver what the titles imply. To capture users' interest, the videos are titled in a seriously provocative manner, like: "Officer vs. Gangsta Thug in Brawl," "How to Steal 23 MacBook Pros, 14 iPhones, and 9 iPods In 31 Seconds," and "Toyota Supra Drifting Unbuttons A Girl's Shirt."

I've also seen in my Facebook newsfeed that friends have watched videos with thumbnails of an overweight man shooting a pistol, a very unattractive photo of a woman's posterior, and a lot of cleavage. The CEO of Socialcam,Michael Siebel says they do not allow pornography or excessively violent videos into the app, and in fact many of the titles that suggest these themes lead to videos that (thankfully) don't deliver on their billing. But the titles and icons associated with the videos are what your friends see on Facebook, and they do more damage to your reputation than the videos themselves.

I am a huge fan of social sharing; seeing what friends read on the WaPo social reader is interesting, what they listen to on Spotify is great for new music discovery, and (full disclosure) as a content creator for Yahoo! I love that a good story can catch fire with social sharing and get even more exposure.

But not only do the videos on Socialcam seem to lack any professional standards, users are too often unaware that their potentially embarrassing views are being shared. According to my Facebook newsfeed, a coworker has watched a video titled "Stupid Guy Hits Girlfriend." A professional I do business with has watched a video about a girl going topless, and a relative has watched a video of a man supposedly being eaten by a snake. Even the CEO Siebel says "We are working to make users more aware of what they are sharing and of the tools available to control sharing."

So please, turn off social for Socialcam or choose what you share. Here's how:

Go to Facebook and on the left hand column under apps double-click Socialcam

Once in the Socialcam app itself, in the upper right hand corner, choose Settings.

Then in Settings, scroll down to "Auto Sharing" and unclick both the Facebook options. Scroll down again and hit SAVE.

One thing that troubled me about this app was that when I turned off public sharing in Socialcam on my computer but then watched a video on my mobile device, the settings reverted to make all my activity public. I turned the settings back to private, then tested it by watching another video on a different computer in a new browser. Socialcam again turned my settings back to public sharing. I posted to my social feeds on Twitter and Google+ to ask if anyone else had this problem and some users reported the same experience. Also, every time I opened the settings for Socialcam, it reverted my settings back to public.

My workaround: go the app section of Facebook , choose settings for Socialcam and where is asks "who can see this activity" choose "Only Me"

Socialcam CEO Michael Siebel, says these were bugs and they fixed some of these features just yesterday (May 15, 2012), and he told me that they are tweaking the privacy settings and that many of these "bugs" are in flux.

Seibel also points out that many other social video and media sites have privacy settings that are more aggressive than Socialcam's, but that their site has become so popular in the last month that it's under the most scrutiny. And users would be very wise to give other video sharing sites like Chill or Viddy serious scrutiny when used.

But as I see it, the problem with Socialcam comes from their strategy. In an interview on Bloomberg News, CEO Siebel indicated that the company's strategy has been to attract users with popular videos and then transition them to using Socialcam to share their own videos much in the way that Instagram did with photos. What worries me is that in their all-out land grab for users — basically the way in which they are attracting people — naïve users are being embarrassed and used at the same time.

I say watch whatever you want, but choose how you share that information — and pick apps that empower you to take control of your privacy, not those that are playing fast and loose with your reputation.

Related: Can You Really Find Out Who's Looking at Your Facebook Page?