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Transparency talks: video conferencing and VoIP platforms must put your privacy first

After pressing Zoom to issue regular transparency reports revealing government requests for user data, today, Access Now calls on other video conferencing platforms to release or update similar reports clarifying exactly how they protect personal user data and enforce policies related to freedom of expression. 

“The past few months have made it clear that respect for human rights cannot be an afterthought of video conferencing platforms,” said Isedua Oribhabor, Access Now’s U.S. Policy Analyst. “Our rights to privacy and free expression are at risk when third parties, from law enforcement to malicious hackers, seek sensitive information and personal data. Companies must build safeguards now, such as issuing regular and robust transparency reports, to prevent future threats rather than waiting until harm occurs.”

Video conferencing and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) platforms have gained critical importance in the wake of COVID-19 as public health reasons force more workers than ever before to stay at home. These platforms have become indispensable for work and entertainment alike, helping us connect with family, friends, and essential services, from health to education. But for many users, critical information is hidden away in complex and purposefully vague policies that conceal how companies store, encrypt, and share user data, as well as how terms of service and other issues relating to freedom of expression are enforced. Therefore, it is all the more imperative that these companies are transparent about how their policies affect our rights online, and that they make the effort to assess and improve current practices.

“Regulators see the failures of video conferencing tools to disclose threats to user security,” said Peter Micek, Access Now’s General Counsel. “Without knowing more, we assume the worst, and unfortunately we’re often right: bargain basement security is the norm. We encourage all platforms to open up on their policies and practices for privacy, account security, and content moderation, and to raise the floor of protections.”

Access Now is inviting video conferencing and VoIP platforms to make a public commitment to release or improve transparency reports by the end of July, and to continue the conversation at RightsCon Online, which will take place July 27 — 31, 2020.