Which video conferencing software is best for privacy? (Part 2)

–– 24 May 2020

In part one of our series on video conferencing privacy, we talked about the ways you can protect your privacy before and during video chats & conferences.

In this part two, we offer our view on a bunch of video conferencing software to help you decide which is best for your personal data…

Skype 

Released in 2003, Skype is a long standing option for video conferencing, free and once ubiquitous – “you can Skype me”. They were bought by Microsoft in 2011 and part of its value to them was absorbing call data into their own tech stack. 

Pros

  • Established player, familiar and ease of access
  • Encryption is now by default; calls are end-to-end encrypted

Cons

  • Collects pretty much every piece of data under the sun
  • Not open source and your data can be transferred to third parties

Google Hangouts 

For many Google Hangouts is a convenient and free platform. Especially given you can now set up meetings via your Gmail account. But then again, it’s from Google who pretty much know everything about you…

Pros

  • Lots of features; group and 1-to-1 calls, you can use in browser and on different platforms
  • Easy to use, familiar platform and links with Gmail for easy access

Cons

  • Collects pretty much everything it possibly can about you
  • Doesn’t use end-to-end encryption during calls 
  • Not open-source (where coders can see what’s going on)

FaceTime

The built-in video call option for Apple products is an often overlooked option for group video chats, but a strong one for a number of reasons.

Pros

  • Encryption by default; end-to-end encryption
  • Ease of access, and familiar software 
  • Apple trade on having good privacy protections – “what goes on Apple…”

Cons

  • Lacks in features; cannot access via browser, self host, or use without creating an account 
  • Does collect some personal data; location, address book and metadata (link to what is metadata guide)

Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams has been gaining traction, especially with those organisations running Windows technology. MIcrosoft have avoided a lot of the flak around privacy suffered by Google, Facebook and others, but our own findings reveal they don’t have a dedicated data protection email or an independent way to send a subject access request. 

Pros

  • Wide range of features; selfhost, access from browser
  • Allows group and single calls

Cons

  • Collects most personal information it can: Location, call data, meta-data
  • They can transfer data to third parties

Zoom

It’s been pretty much the platform of choice during the COVID-19 crisis, and has even become a verb. But the limelight they received hasn’t come without scrutiny

Pros

  • Offers a wide range of features, can use in browser, as an app
  • Familiar and an established player 

Cons

  • Doesn’t feature end-to-end encryption
  • Can transfer data to third parties 

Jitsi 

This video-conferencing platform was founded in 2003 by a student in France, and it has gained popularity as a more secure alternative to Zoom. 

Pros

  • Free and open-source, outside parties can check its security; and encrypted
  • Offers wide range of features: Access from browser, participate without creating an account, self host
  • Encryption by default

Cons 

  • There is a maximum of 75 in a chat (but let’s be honest, that’s pretty impressive!) 

Signal 

What Signal lacks in features, it makes up for in privacy. Signal is an encrypted app that is proving to be one of the most secure ways to communicate. Out of most video call apps they collect very little data. The only downside is that video chats with groups are not possible. 

Pros

  • Encryption end-to-end 
  • Minimal data collection
  • Ability to permanently delete messages and history

Cons

  • Need to add group video
  • Need to allow users to enter conversations w/o creating an account
  • Use in browser

We hope you found this guide useful. Do you use other software that you think should feature in this article? Let us know and we’ll do our best to add it. 

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