Sunday, 5 April 2020

Why the time is right to dump Zoom today.



Zoom has been getting a lot of stick recently and not all because of one fault. It seems that there are a number of problems facing the company and after investigating these issues, described below (with links to the source) I've uninstalled the software and will be urging my colleagues to do the same. 
There are better alternatives available without the hassle and worry that comes with Zoom. So what are the problems?

One group that has had a shock using Zoom is a Norwegian School class who's online lesson was interupted by a naked man. This happened because, by default, Zoom meetings aren't password protected and they're not encrypted. He guessed the meeting number and hey presto, he's naked in a class full of school children. Not good.

If that isn't bad enough Zoom yesterday announced that they accidentally allowed their traffic to pass through chinese servers. China has a tempestuous relationship with internet freedom and because Zoom calls aren't encrypted, end to end, it's unknown what content from what calls will have been picked up by the Chinese authorities. A nation highly involved in testing the limits of western internet security. To make this mistake by accident is foolish at best.

In addition the company has been associated with  found guilty of selling data to facebook. Yup, that whole Cambridge Analytica thing is echoing around here again*.

Finally there's controversy around the hosts ability to check and see that you don't have another window open during a meeting via an attention tracking feature. Is this an invasion of privacy that some Zoom users didn't know?

There's the back door that they left open on Mac machines with their software that could have let anyone hack in a view a webcam. Which has just resurfaced.

There's also the issue around it allowing the stealing of Passwords from Windows machines or installing Malware.

So. Video conferencing with Zoom is a mess and to be frank my knowledge of alternatives is limited. But after researching alternatives, there appeared to be one clear choice as a viable alternative, but it was only launched yesterday.

So forget normal Skype as yesterday 4th April, Microsoft announced 'Skype Meet Now'
This works with Skype apps, but the premise is much more Zoom like; with added benefits.
Like many other Conferencing apps, you create a link/invite.
  • You get the benefits of Microsoft team's  blur background (to stop people snooping in your home). 
  • There's no download necessary for people using Personal Computers (although the Skype app [on Mac and Windows] will work) 
  • You no longer need a Skype account - (like Zoom clients) 
  • You can share your screen (like Zoom). 
The code you create, like Zoom, will also not expire. So if you want a coffee morning with friends, then you can create a calendar appointment and use the same link each week (in a recurring event to join together). And finally the call is also good for up to 50 people which should be sufficient for most meetings.

Hangouts - Is Google's alternative to Zoom as it supports meetings of up to 150 (Zoom is 100) It's available as a Chrome plugin, and also iOS and Android apps however it gets poor reviews, their pricing isn't clear and although anyone with a google account can use it for free, it's unclear how many can join in on without paying. It is easy (now) to have people join a call as it can be done by link. Click 'Invite People' - copy link and then send them the link to join in.

Duo - Duo has just announced (due to coronavirus) that they will support up to 12 people on a call. Their website however still only says 8. So I guess it's in beta. There is a Duo App that is available on iOS and Android and you can access it through the web on the link above. It's really simple and it always seems to works well. But I think Microsoft have just usurped it with Skype Meet Now.

Conclusion - Quite simply my advice would be stop using Zoom and try Skype Meet Now.
Why wouldn't you?

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*Footnote - (If using Firefox there's a mozilla plug in called Facebook container that will stop websites sharing your browsing habits with them. On other browsers, most of the wesites you visit will be sharing your data with Facebook, even if you don't have a Facebook account, they'll be using your unique advertsing ID).



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