How do I choose a video conferencing system?

Video conferencing is an increasingly popular, major tool for movement activists. You can meet with anyone on Earth—either in a group, or in one-on-one conversations—while sharing visuals and communicating through text notes. You can also have your meetings surveilled, intercepted and even disrupted if you don’t use the right software.

Video conferencing is something we should all use. Powerful and easy to use, it allows for meetings and consultations whenever we want with whomever we want. We just need to make sure it’s secure.

There are many video conferencing systems to choose from and many activists have their favorites.

Keep in mind that these first two, which are very popular, are proprietary software. This means they are owned and controlled by corporations. While both are popular and effective, corporate control can sometimes means a lack of responsiveness toward problems and vulnerabilities. For example, here’s a recent problem Zoom has had.

Zoom is a favorite right now. It’s free for 40-minute meetings, and there are monthly paid packages. It requires installation for a base user and for participants. Or you can connect by phone. And Zoom now offers end-to-end encryption which is always a huge plus.

GotoMeeting is another popular one. You can do a free trial for two weeks. After that, it’s a paid service. Installation is required. Phone connection is available.

Jitsi is a popular choice among activists because of its ease-of-use, convenience and security. It can be used via many servers throughout the world, thus you don’t have to download anything. Just go to the site, make a room name, and you’re in.

With each of these, your interactions online are encrypted.

But there are two things to keep in mind:

1) If you connect via a regular phone line, encryption is not possible. Your entire conversation can be captured. This means any program that allows a phone connection is insecure by its nature.

2) Encryption is often not end-to-end. Your communications are encrypted as they travel between you and the server, and again from the server to the other participants. This means it’s possible someone can connect directly to the server and access your communications there without encryption.

So the rule to remember with all these programs is to choose your provider wisely and ask if they will protect your meeting data.

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