Alternative Software for Working at Home and Chatting With Your Family

(updates 29th April and 6th July below) Because of the Corona crisis, many are advised to stay at home and to avoid physical contact as much as possible. This means that we must avoid meeting up with co-workers, voluntary organisations or even friends and family. Instead we have to  rely on online solutions to stay in contact with loved ones, colleagues and the outside world. DataEthics.eu has made at short list of what we believe is ethical to use.

Disclaimer: We are not responsible for the privacy or lack of privacy in below services. It is our best guess looking at their privacy policies and being in contact with several of the services. (We update it regularly)

Safe Video Calls
Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, Zoom and many other similar services are not private. Messenger is said to listen to your IRL conversations, if you’ve given it access to your microphone, and WhatsApp keeps metadata and sends your phone number to its owner, Facebook. Many are using Zoom, a US start-up with no specific privacy-focus, and a very complex privacy policy, and recently highly critized for its privacy (eg here in the Intercept or here in Washington Post ) Especially when there are so many great alternatives. Update 29th April: Zoom is working seriously on its security and privacy, and it has put a halt on all new features until that is okay, so it might end up being okay.

There are good ways to use Zoom. Danish universities, for example, use it via another service called Deic. They pay them to make extra security such as a dedicated server park. Unfortunately it is not a product others can buy.
Update 6th July: Zoom has been listening to critics, and are getting more and more secure, e.g. they  now offer full encryption to all users – also the free users.

If you have to do a video conference for work or maybe just a video call for a family birthday, then you can find really good alternatives for chat- video calls here:

Jitsi Meet is an open source, fully encrypted, free solution and you do not need create an account to use it. It allows you to be anonymous and keeps your conversations private. Made by Australian Atlassian. NEW: In the Brave browser on your pc you can run a cool version of Jitsi.

Whereby.com is a Norwegian solution with encrypted connections. You do need to create an account for Whereby, but it is free if you only need one meeting room for max four participants. They are financed by providing paid services to business- and pro users and can thus provide a free version for all to use. Higly recommended. And on of this, it has its headquaters in Europe with some of the best privacy laws in the world. If you use the paid version – up to 50 – it is recommended that those not speaking keep it on mute.

Microsoft’s Skype for Business and Teams are also okay.

And Apple’s Facetime for all of you having Apple.

GoToMeet.me is also worth a try. As opposed to Zoom and like Whereby it is encrypted end-to-end also in the free version.

The Danish 23 Webinars is also very cool (and probably showing that is does cost to give you a safe service) though it works best on Google Chrome!

And finally Webex from Cisco seems okay. They’ve just released a version you can try without pay for up to 100 people. 

Safe Chat Apps

Wire.com is made in Switzerland and is a secure collaborative platform. It is very user-friendly and 100% open source with their code available on GitHub. Their message app personal use is free, but for a fee they so also offer conference calls with end-to-end encryption on text chat, calls and shared documents. Recently Wire moved to the US. Wire can also be used for video.

Signal is a US company that puts encryption first. It is an open source project supported by grants and donations and is free for everyone to use. It offers texts, video calls and sharing of documents.

Telegram is originally from Russia but is now based in Dubai. It is an open source software that is end-to-end encrypted, completely free and it can self-destruct. They only offer audio calling but have distributed servers all over the world to support security and speed and they have no limit on the size of media and chats.

VPN (Virtual Private Network)
A VPN connects your device to another server and allows you to use that computer’s internet connection. It can be used to protect your device when using free wi-fi at coffee shops or hotels and if the server you are connecting to is in another country, it will appear as if you are coming from that country. You can thereby use VPN to control your location. This is good for privacy, as your location tell more about us than we know, and good for your ability to bargain the right price, as more and more services not only use cookies to ‘personalise’ prices to you but also your location. Finally, you can use it to see your own country’s national channels when abroad. Choose one with headquarters in Europe since they have better privacy laws than China and US. There are a lot to choose between, here are some:

  • F-Secure (Finland)
  • ipredator (Sweden)
  • ibvpn (Rumania) lots of servers
  • Cyberghost (Rumania) lots of servers
  • NordVP (Panama)

See more services here and here

And tips for organising a good webinar by Astrid Haug

Also read NOYB’s analysis of some of the webinar tools’ privacy policy

Update 29th April 2020: Mozilla did a really intersting Buyer’s Guide for Video Calls. Comment: They give Google and Facebook’s services higher ratings than Apple which is really weird, but it is probably because they give optimal password security a full point. On the other hand, ‘encryption and end-to-end encryption’ gives a full point even though end-to-end encryption should rate higher than just encryption. Further, they are not including a service like Whereby.com, which is a pity. What is really good is reading the ratings from the users – like this rating below first of Jitsi Meet then Zoom  – which seem to reflect reality really well.

Update 6th July 2020

According to the German DPA very few video services live up to GDPR when it come to data processing agreement. Neither Zoom, Microsoft, Google or Go To do. They all get a clear red warning. The green ones, who do have legal data processing agreements are Wire, Tixeo, sichere-videokonferenz.de and Netways. Webex by Cisco used by the EU get a yellow light. Get the full report here in German.

Do send us input to above please at info@dataethics.eu

Comments are closed.

Password Reset
Please enter your e-mail address. You will receive a new password via e-mail.