- Zoom is gaining popularity as people around the world begin working from home.
- There are a number of privacy flaws.
- Some crypto diehards are using alternative solutions.
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With everyone working from home, people are flocking to Zoom, a video conferencing service. This attention has even sent its stock prices flying up.
But the service comes with a number of privacy flaws. According to a report by Input, Zoom is able to monitor the activity on your computer and collect information about which programs are currently running. It also captures what window you have in focus.
Unsurprisingly, Monero developer and privacy advocate Riccardo Spagni, known as Fluffypony, has already ditched the service.
+1 for Whereby, switched to it from Zoom a while back.
— Riccardo Spagni (@fluffypony) March 22, 2020
“+1 for Whereby, switched to it from Zoom a while back,” he tweeted yesterday, in response to someone stating that Whereby appears to be more secure.
But is Zoom really that bad for personal privacy?
The extent of Zoom’s lackluster privacy
“Zoom gives administrators full power to track attendees' attention with an indicator that points out when a participant doesn't have the app "in focus" for more than 30 seconds,” Input’s report stated.
Last year, the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over this issue.
“According to EPIC, Zoom intentionally designed its web conferencing service to bypass browser security settings and remotely enable a user's web camera without the knowledge or consent of the user. As a result, Zoom exposed users to the risk of remote surveillance, unwanted videocalls, and denial-of-service attacks,” the complaint alleged.
And yes, like Facebook, Zoom will sell your data.
How to call your family and stay private
There are other services that offer video conferencing with fewer privacy burdens.
One example is Whereby, developed in Norway, which adheres to the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). These are a stricter set of laws than those in the US that govern Zoom, Microsoft’s Skype, Facebook’s Messenger or Slack. All of its content is encrypted and data is stored in the EU.
Thanks to the technology called Web Real-Time Communication, Whereby allows communicating in browsers just by creating and sharing a URL, so you don’t have to download an app.
“It is a pretty simple technology that allows anyone to build this directly between two browsers,” said Ingrid Ødegaard, the founder of Whereby, to DataEthics.
Whereby’s business model doesn’t include selling your data. Instead, it offers a paid service, where it makes its money.