Pillar of Value:
Conversations = Texting
The connection between texting and conversation is an obvious 1-to-1: the exchange of words between two or more people. Unlike a face-to-face conversation between people, text messages sent between parties leave a record. This is where End-to-End Encryption (E2EE) is important. E2EE is a secure method of protecting text conversations where only the sender and receiver in a conversation can read what is written. Chances are you're already using a messaging service that has E2EE. Apple’s IMessage and FaceTime are E2EE. Now, the question we must ask is whether we trust the companies hosting the servers through which we communicate. I will say companies like Apple have been rather strident defenders of E2EE and fighting against Government backdoor access to our phones. I believe it is a good idea to become familiar with and begin using alternative messaging apps. In the case of texting, a great alternative is Signal. As I discuss below, Signal offers E2EE and other privacy tools not offered by IMessage.
While the world continues to battle COVID-19 and practice social distancing, video conferencing software has seen an incredible spike in casual usage. The ability to remotely gather large groups of people from across the globe is a truly incredible achievement. These sometimes cathartic digital gatherings can often times be extremely personal, and maybe even intimate. As such we should strive to have these conversations protected as best we can. With the dawn of the COVID era we saw the mass adoption of Zoom as the platform of choice for video conferencing. Zoom’s platform and interface are very user-friendly and the connection is quite clear, but their privacy practices are incredibly poor. Amid countless security flubs over the last few months, I believe the following examples are most pertinent. During the meteoric rise of Zoom in the early days of the lockdowns, Zoom claimed they provided end-to-end encryption when in reality they did not. More recently, when Zoom announced they would provide end-to-end encryption for their service they stated that it would only be available to paying customers. They later back-tracked on that proposition only after immense public outcry. What I believe was the most egregious violation of user privacy by Zoom was the suspension of US based accounts holding vigils over Zoom commemorating the anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Given what has happened over the past few months, I have been a staunch advocate for alternatives to Zoom like Jitsi Meet. Jitsi Meet is free, doesn’t require an account to use, and most importantly is end-to-end encrypted.
The tools below will help ensure your text and video communications are protected. I’ve also included a brief guide to getting started on Jitsi Meet in the expanded descriptions.
- IMessage (Apple Products Only)
- IMessage (Apple Products Only)
Signal: Besides their reliable encryption, Signal leads through their privacy-first principles. Signal is a non-profit supported through donations and grants and therefore not beholden to certain data gathering and analytics practices. Signal is open source, meaning every line of code can be verified by anyone to ensure the integrity of the application. Signal also released a face-blurring tool to allow in-app modifications to photos. This is particularly useful if you plan on attending a protest and want to protect the identities of other attendees in pictures you've taken.
Jitsi Meet: Jitsi Meet provides free end-to-end encrypted video conferencing. Jitsi is packed with features such as screen sharing, text chat, background blurring, and custom muting. If you are more technologically inclined and prefer to run your own instance, Jitsi’s open source model and active developer community can make that possible.
How to start a Jitsi Meet call:
Jitsi works through creating or joining rooms.
Creating a Room on the Computer: When you log into Jitsi Meet you will see a single text bar in the center of the screen. This is where you will create the name of the room. It is suggested you make a very long and specific name for whatever room you create so that you don’t accidentally join an existing room or make it easy for someone to guess your room name.
Once you’ve created the room, you will be sent directly into the meeting. On this screen you will see customizable options in the bottom right corner.
Adding a Password: It is recommended you add a password to your new room. In the bottom right of your screen you will see a lock icon.
- Click the icon
- Click “add password”
- Press Enter
Creating a Room on the IPhone: When you open the Jitsi Meet app you will see a single text bar in the center of the screen. This is where you will create the name of the room. It is suggested you make a very long and specific name for whatever room you create so that you don’t accidentally join an existing room or make it easy for someone to guess your room name.
Once you’ve created the room, you will be sent directly into the meeting. On this screen you will see customizable options along the bottom of the screen.
Adding a Password: It is recommended you add a password to your new room. In the bottom right of your screen you will see three vertical dots.
- Tap the three dots
- Tap “more options”
- Tap “Add meeting Password”
- Type in your password
- Tap “OK”