The use of platforms updated April 5th 2020

Disclaimer: These are my views stated below. I speak here as an online counsellor/coach and not as a director of ACTO. Nor as a technical specialist.

I got it completely wrong last week when I said Zoom was safe to use. That is one of the reasons for this update.

I will share what I am going to do in my practice. We are all going to have to find our way in this and do what feels right and ethical to us.

You are free to make your own decisions. It has been a hectic week in online counselling land. And I hope this brings some clarity to you.

We have to research the platforms that we use to work on. And we have to continue doing so as only 2 weeks ago I thought Zoom was a safe platform to use. I know many of us do not have the technical knowledge to understand everything. I did not spot that there were gaps in their privacy policy.

You have to keep in mind that in the eyes of the ICO [Data protection agency in the UK or the equivalent in your country] you are seen as a keeper of data. That means that they can hold you accountable if you use software that is not safe.

 

As I learnt this weekend, there are two types of privacy.

  1. Privacy during a session, where you make sure that nobody can listen in on your session
  2. A wider sort of privacy where you make sure you don’t work with a platform that will sell on data to third parties. [This is what zoom was found out to be doing]

 

Why I stopped using Skype:

In the old days all of us worked with Skype and if you came to this very very early MSN.

We did not know as much about security and privacy then, nor did many of us really care and clients never mentioned it. They wanted a platform they knew and that was easy to use.

I stopped using it for several reasons.

  1. It was bought by Microsoft and I was no longer sure they used good encryption and would not mine my data.
  2. Skype breaks GDPR. You can see when you contacts are online. So a client can see exactly when you are online and you can see when your client was online. That breaks confidentiality. PS Whatsapp does exactly the same. Signal does not.

 

Then I started using Zoom. Most of us thought that Zoom was safe. They had end-to-end encryption and everybody used it. So it was a big shock when last week it came to light that Zoom had sold data to Facebook and very likely others as well.

There’s too much to cover here, so I’ll narrow my inquiry down to the “Does Zoom sell Personal Data?” section of the privacy policy, which was last updated on March 18. The section runs two paragraphs, and I’ll comment on the second one, starting here:

… Zoom does use certain standard advertising tools which require Personal Data…

What they mean by that is adtech.[advertising technology] What they’re also saying here is that Zoom is in the advertising business, and in the worst end of it: the one that lives off harvested personal data. What makes this extra creepy is that Zoom is in a position to gather plenty of personal data, some of it very intimate (for example with a shrink talking to a patient) without anyone in the conversation knowing about it. (Unless, of course, they see an ad somewhere that looks like it was informed by a private conversation on Zoom.)

 Why I now use Jitsimeet

 

This bit has to get a bit technical but it is well worth your read.

It is as safe as you can get. There is never a 100% certainty that hackers can’t get in.

Jitsimeet is something which is called open source. Which means it does not have a business model and it does not need to make money to stay in business.

I was afraid that open source meant that everybody can see the code the program is built on and hack it. So I asked an IT specialist about this.

He assures me that open source means that everybody has the right to look at the code a program is built on. This does mean that ‘evil’ hackers can look for mistakes in the code that they can exploit. But the open source community is one dedicated to security and privacy. And it has many more ‘good/white hat’ hackers who make it their lives work to find those mistakes and to warn the makers. Often they will solve the mistakes for them. It also means that anyone with knowledge can have check that the software is doing what it promises to do.

‘Evil’ hackers are not the biggest problem for online counsellors. They often find our information totally useless. It is not what they are looking for. But the companies that data mine our data without our knowledge and who sell that data on are a much bigger problem.

Extra layer of protection

If you want to add an extra layer of protection to your session on jitsimeet keep in mind that some browsers are more secure than others.

Of the best known ones Firefox is the best one to use. Or use smaller ones like brave.com.

And use an incognito window.

Jitsi runs best on these two browsers. It also runs well on google chrome but as it is own by google it is not the best browser to use when setting up a meeting.

I hope I have given you something to think about and also an option to use instead of Zoom.

If you need more information, please get in touch with me.

Acknowledgements:

All the people who posted blogs and videos about zoom this week, especially Catherine Knibbs

Pieter van der Eems for explaining open source in terms I could understand

 

 

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