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Video Chat Services - a Brief Introduction and Why I oppose the use of Zoom

At this time of the Covid19 pandemic personal connections are more important than ever. We need to reach out to family and friends.

We need to consider carefully too how we do so and to make sometimes difficult decisions to say no to certain apps.

It is not simply a matter of our personal privacy and security.

As end users of software and hardware we are subject to a variety of moral hazards. We need to consider what the long term implications of our software and hardware choices will be for the future of our democratic societies and for individual freedoms. Ignorance is not an excuse as cyber attacks on our society increase and national defence is no longer on our borders but in our devices.

Collectively our choices determine whether democracies or authoritarian regimes will prevail. The choice is ours.

Nation states as well as hackers and criminals seek to ensnare us for their ends. We are all now on the watchtower. I will not use certain applications for they will strengthen those who seek to tear down our democratic society. Some applications have all or part of their functions lodged in totalitarian states. Fund them (indirectly) and you fund their designs. (Hardware and firmware are a whole other category of risk.)

I hope the information below will help you to reach out to friends and family and help you to make informed decisions. It's a dynamic environment and we all need to update our cyber defences regularly. We are responsible for our own choices. Because an application is popular does not mean it is secure from authoritarian regimes, criminals and psychopaths.


Video Chatting Services - a partial list

  Apple Facetime - end to end encrypted, Apple ecosystem only
  Whats App - end-to-end encrypted
  Google Hangouts
  Google Meet (Solid)
  Microsoft Teams (Solid)
  Facebook Messenger Rooms (Coming soon) (see caveats below)
  Signal Sign in - end-to-end encrypted
  Zoom Sign in (I refuse to use this product)

Cautionary Notes about Chatting Services - Remember if a platform is are the product

  Privacy experts reviewed popular video-chat apps, and *yikes* (April 2020)
  Consumer Reports: It's Not Just Zoom. Google Meet, Microsoft Teams, and Webex Have Privacy Issues, Too. (April 30, 2020)
  Double-check those Zoom meeting invites. Hackers are faking them to steal your info.(April 25, 2020)
  Forbes: WhatsApp Suddenly Gets Powerful New Security Boost: Heres Why It Affects You (May 2, 2020)
  Mashable: Why I refuse to sign up for Zoom (April 27, 2020)
  Mashable: Why you shouldn't use Facebook's Messenger Rooms: A non-exhaustive list (April 2020)
  The only app that matters this year is Signal (December 19, 2017)

You Tube Service Descriptions

  How to Make Group Calls on WhatsApp
  Google Meet is now free for everyone (taking on Zoom!)
  Microsoft Teams
  How to use Group FaceTime on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
  Why We Should All Be Using Signal Messenger
  Watch Mark Zuckerberg reveal Zoom competitor, Messenger Rooms
  dottotech: Zoom Basics - Using Zoom for Classes and Meetings

Why I don't use Zoom

Sorry to say I don't do Zoom and will not be using it in future. Call it an abundance of caution and a firm position on the wider play.

This cuts me out of some social connections but its a position I have taken publically and will continue to do so.

Why do I take this position?

Well because it is a cybersecurity nightmare. It appears to be a very badly implemented piece of software.

Zoom uses non-industry-standard encryption for securing meetings, and there have been discrepancies between security claims in Zoom documentation and how the platform actually works. In other words they have a reputation for being bullshitters.

Claims that they have now tighened things up don't wash with me...once a BSr always a BSr.

Then there is the China connection. It's not that its Chinese.... it's the long arm of the Chinese Communist Party (CPP). Zoom traffic is routed through servers in China. aka the CPP can demand access. - and probably has access already. We are fighting an ongoing cyber war with the CPP and a global political war for democracy. This goes far beyond Zoom.

I don't plan to have anything to do with China's software or hardware if I can avoid it. And in this case I can avoid it.

I also happen to think that TELUS is making a very big mistake with Huawei. And the Canadian government continues to pursue a policy that has proved not to bear fruit with the rise of Xi - a hard line Stalinist with Chinese characteristics. There is precious little chance of China taking the democracy route in the foreseeable future with Xi in the saddle.

We, the democracies, are going to be in a titanic struggle with the CCP over the next 50 years and I think we should all recognize that it will be an all out struggle in which cyber and control of global platforms and AI will be the high ground.

The Chinese Communist Party play's by its own rules which includes a gulag of monumental proportions in Western China. The imprisonment of essentially a whole people - the Ughrs by the CCP's Xi is indicative of what the regime is capable of and why we need to push back. They make the Stasi look like powder puffs. We should take our cue not from Xi Jinping Thought but by Xi Jinping's actions.

Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig have been detained by Chinese authorities since December 2018 . There is no consular access to them. People "disappear" if they oppose the Communist party and speak in favour of democracy and the rule of law.

I will make do with other software and platforms for communicating. There are alternatives. A don't intend to follow the herd.

I expect alternatives to develop that are superior to Zoom. And I hope that Zoom will fade from the scene like the hoola hoop.

We are in a science and technology war in which the CPP grasps that its scale and percent of GDP devoted to research and to funding national champions Huawei ..can win them global suzerainty .

I am available on a variety of other platforms.

While Zoom is headquartered in the United States, and listed on the NASDAQ, the mainline Zoom app appears to be developed by three companies in China - The Citizen Lab

The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary laboratory based at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, University of Toronto

Why I oppose the use of Zoom

  The Atlantic: How China Sees the World And how we should see China (May 2020)(A Coles Notes introduction to the struggle)
  Independent: Zoom will let users stop data being sent through China after latest privacy scandal. (April 15, 2020)
  Zoom security flaws and Chinese links make US authorities nervous (April 6, 2020)
  Warning: Zoom Makes Encryption Keys In China (Sometimes) (April 3, 2020)
  Citizen Lab: Move Fast and Roll Your Own Crypto A Quick Look at the Confidentiality of Zoom Meetings (April 3, 2020)