Regulators warn video calling apps about privacy risks

A number of international privacy regulators are calling for end-to-end encryption to be made available to all video calling app users. They also believe that it should be made clear what the limitations are of standard encryption compared to end-to-end encryption. This can be read in a joint statement from the privacy regulators.

Concerns about privacy in video calling apps

In July 2020, international privacy regulators from Australia, Canada, China, Gibraltar, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom and Switzerland sent a letter to the top five video calling apps. The letter was sent to Cisco, Google, House Party, Microsoft and Zoom. In the letter, the privacy regulators expressed their concerns about the privacy and security of video calling apps. The concerns about these privacy risks were also related to the rapid increase in the use of video calling apps due to the corona pandemic.

Microsoft, Google, Cisco and Zoom have responded to the letter. The video calling apps have explained the privacy and security measures within their apps. Following an evaluation of these responses, the privacy regulators have drawn up a joint statement.

End-to-end encryption

In the statement, the privacy regulators make several recommendations. One of those recommendations is to make end-to-end encryption available to all users of the video calling apps.

End-to-end encryption is encrypting a message by means of a code. This technique ensures that only the sender and receiver can see the content of the conversation. Many chat apps such as WhatsApp, Signal and Wickr use this encryption to ensure user privacy. Many video calling apps do not have this encryption.

The privacy regulators believe that video calling apps should also apply end-to-end encryption for group calls. End-to-end encryption should be enabled by default on sensitive applications such as telehealth. In addition, privacy authorities find it important that video calling apps inform users of the difference between standard encryption and end-to-end encryption. Video calling app users should be given several options for setting their preferred encryption.

Zoom has now announced that end-to-end encryption is available to everyone worldwide. End-to-end encryption is available to both Zoom users with a free account and paid subscribers.

Collection of personal information

The privacy regulators also believe that video calling apps should not keep personal information for longer than necessary. Also, this information should only be used for the provision of the service. If the information is used for other purposes or for advertising, this must be clearly stated in advance.

Do you want to know more about secure video calling? Then read our extensive article. We’ll give you tips for the best video calling apps, and we’ll let you know which video calling apps you shouldn’t use if you’re very private.

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