How to choose a video chat app? Grade it on privacy

Zoom, FaceTime, Houseparty, Hangouts, WhatsApp, Skype—with so many options on the market, consumers ought to opt for safety and security.

How to choose a video chat app? Grade it on privacy

In Techland, everyone loves a good rivalry. There are the smartphone wars (iOS vs. Android). The ride-hailing rumblings (Uber vs. Lyft). The music match-ups (Spotify vs. Pandora). The video-streaming vendettas (Netflix vs. Quibi—lol, just kidding!).

Virtual conferencing software, somewhat amazingly, bucks the trend. While Zoom has rocketed to prominence during the time of quarantine, people are just as likely to use one of the many other options on the market: Apple’s FaceTime, Facebook’s WhatsApp, Microsoft’s Skype, the list goes on.

How do they all stack up against each other? Since the U.S. National Security Agency published its report assessing the security of various video chat apps, two respected non-profits have followed suit. Consumer Reports, known for its independent product testing and reviews, and the Mozilla Foundation, the group behind the Firefox web browser, surveyed the privacy implications of some of the most popular options.

The privacy policies leave much to be desired. That was the standout finding from Consumer Reports, which looked at the legalese behind Cisco’s WebX, Microsoft Teams and Skype, and Google’s Meet, Duo, and Hangouts.

The terms of service for these services’ data collection and sharing remain unclear. To quote the report, all three companies “reserve the right to store information on how long a call lasts; who’s on it; and everyone’s IP, or internet address,” data they can then combine with other information to build profiles of people. In an accompanying statement, Katie McInnis, Consumer Reports’ policy counsel, demanded that the companies manage this information with care and “ensure that they are respecting the digital rights of users.”

The surprise finding from the Mozilla report was that Zoom has really stepped up its game since security researchers pointed out its flaws in recent weeks, while other apps, like Houseparty, seem mostly to have gotten a pass on scrutiny. That latter app, owned by Fortnite-maker Epic Games, apparently continues to accept weak passwords like “12345,” and lets people “sneak” unnoticed into contacts’ virtual rooms. Since Houseparty caters a younger demographic, the security and privacy of the service matters even more.

Because there is so much variety in the video-chatting category, narrowing down the selection can be difficult. Safety seems as good a grading criterion as any.

Robert Hackett

Twitter: @rhhackett


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The Coronavirus Economy: The mother-daughter flower business that keeps on trucking

Diane Hill and Courtney Clark run Dahlias Flower Truck, popping up at birthdays, bridal and baby showers, weddings, and corporate events all over central Florida.

The Coronavirus Economy: The mother-daughter flower business that keeps on trucking

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Diane Hill and Courtney Clark are the mother and daughter duo who run Dahlias Flower Truck, popping up at birthdays, bridal and baby showers, weddings, and corporate events all over central Florida. When customers book the flower truck, it will come fully stocked with flowers for the event theme, and Hill and Clark assist guests with building their own bouquets to go home. 

The pair launched this business approximately a year and a half ago after both Hill and her husband lost their jobs, and had been trying to figure out how to earn an income while wanting to do something creative.

“As we sat at our dining table, dreaming up what could be, we settled on the fact that we wanted to spread joy to our community,” Hill recalls. “We believed, wholeheartedly, that small acts of kindness and thoughtfulness could make a difference. We have never felt our mission come more alive than in this past month. Our customers care, thoughtfulness and kindness to family, friends and neighbors has been inspiring.”

Fortune spoke with Hill for a new series, The Coronavirus Economy, to ask about how the outbreak of COVID-19 has affected her and her daughter, their plans for the future, and to get a sense of how she has been handling this news, both emotionally and financially.

Courtney Clark and Diane Hill are the mother and daughter duo who run Dahlias Flower Truck in central Florida.

Fortune: How does the flower business normally fare this time of year?

Hill: This is normally our busy season of corporate events, floral workshops, and flower orders for spring and Mother’s Day. 

When did you realize that COVID-19 would affect your boutique? How has it so far?

We realized that our small business would be affected the first week of March when we had our first corporate event cancel. Within the next week, we had all of our events up to Mother’s Day either postponed or cancelled. 

How have bouquet sales fared since the outbreak commenced? What are your day-to-day operations like at the moment?

It’s been about a month since we have had the flower truck out in the public, so all of our normal operations have stopped. However, in the midst of all the crazy, we asked our customers if they would be interested in flower delivery or pick-up. They responded with an astounding yes, so we have adapted an entire new business model than before. Our local SBA suggested if small businesses can do delivery, pick-up, or sell gift cards to stay open, then do it!

We follow the CDC guidelines when delivering and stay informed of any updates from our governor. We’ve been blown away by peoples desire to help support our small business, and to spread a little joy and kindness to their friends and family since they can’t be there in person. Being able to help people connect and share a little joy in these times has been the best part of our job.  

Have you been pushed to make any budget cuts or layoffs? Have you applied to the Paycheck Protection Program for assistance?

It’s our goal during this time to give our employees as many hours as we possibly can. Instead of hiring a third-party driver, we are using our employees. We have already applied to the Paycheck Protection Program and hope to be getting approved for sufficient funds to keep our business open.  

Have you found delivery or long-distance orders shift at all? It seems like flowers would fill a void for people who want to show their affection or sympathy for loved ones while they can’t be somewhere else in person right now.

Before this, we had very little demand for deliveries, and now we are driving all around the greater Orlando area. Flowers have always been a simple gesture to show our loved ones that we’re thinking of them and that they are loved, but now, flowers are one of our only ways of doing that. Our hearts have broken for the messages we hear of people losing jobs, deaths, etc.

But our hope in our community has never been stronger. People care. They are kind and they are being intentional with their words and actions by staying home and sending little love notes of flowers across Orlando. 

What are your future plans as the pandemic continues?

Our short-term plan is operating in a day-to-day mode with deliveries. Our hope is that, long-term, we will be able to go back to normal with booking the truck for events, pop-ups, and plan to keep deliveries on as well.

On a personal note, how have you been faring amid all this? 

It’s been hard. There’s been a lot of anxiety of when or if we will have to shut down, and worrying about how long we would be able to go without any income. We also are constantly monitoring and following CDC recommendations to keep our employees, customers, and ourselves safe while we are open.

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