Ravi Dwivedi

Reasons not to use proprietary videoconferencing services

Last updated: Wednesday 10 November 2021

Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, Microsoft Teams are nonfree software which means that users don’t control them. These software are malware and I list some of the ways in which they mistreat you:

An educational institute should not force Zoom/Google Meet/Microsoft Teams/Skype or any other nonfree software on their students and teachers because it attacks their liberty, privacy and security, as discussed above.

You can use freedom-respecting alternatives like Jitsi Meet and BigBlueButton. These software give users the freedom to run, study, modify, share the software, and also users can install the software in servers controlled by them, taking full control over their communications. Self-hosting can increase costs financially but the attitude that everything must be free-of-cost is very dangerous as it ignores long-term consequences of these choices. Nothing is free, you might use some proprietary videoconferencing services at a cheaper rate, but in exchange you are giving away your liberty and privacy. Worse thing is, you are inviting other people to give away their privacy and liberty as well to talk to you/attend classes.

Further, teachers expect students to have camera-on and see their faces during the lectures. When the self-hosted server can’t handle this much load, they switch back to proprietary software. Do we really have to replicate the model of offline-mode education in online classes? Is it required for everyone to turn on their camera? Is it possible that lectures be pre-recorded and live-streamed at the time of the class and students can interact using Etherpad or Matrix?

The Department of Scientific Computing, Modeling & Simulation, Savitribai Phule Pune University Pune, India uses only free software for teaching. In particular, they use BigBlueButton for videoconferencing. If such a small department can use exclusively free software for teaching, then others can do it too.

FSCI runs a privacy-respecting Jitsi service. Feel free to use meet.fsci.in for your daily online meeting needs. You just need to go to the link meet.fsci.in and create a room name and share the link with the people you would like to meet with. They only need to visit the meeting link from a web browser to join the meeting. If you would like to support meet.fsci.in financially, check out this page.

If you would like to join me in promoting software freedom in education, please join the group:

XMPP address: fs-edu@groups.poddery.com

Matrix address: #fs-edu:poddery.com.