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Avoid putting your privacy at risk on conference calls

Virtual meetings have become part of the new normal during the coronavirus pandemic.

With a growing number of businesses and individuals relying on teleconferencing software such as Zoom, they’ve fallen victim to so-called Zoom “bombers,” who disrupt meetings with obscene material.

But, according to Consumer Reports, it’s not just Zoom that is dealing with privacy issues. In fact, there are some risks associated with other popular services including Skype and Google Hangouts.

Take Microsoft and Google, for example, since they’re the powerhouses in virtual communication. Under Microsoft’s umbrella are both Skype and Teams, while Google controls Hangouts and Duo.

Users of these tools might assume that conversations on these conference calls are confidential.

Yet, as Consumer Reports found, the companies’ privacy policies allow them sweep up data from these calls such as the length of the call, the call attendees and their IP addresses.

On their own, those kind of details aren’t necessarily valuable. But once added to third-party data, they could be used to build a profile of your behavior as a consumer.

So, how do users maintain their privacy? Consumer Reports has a series of steps you can take:

  • Choose one platform and stick with it. You can limit the amount of data you’re making available to these companies by using only one service provider.
  • Add your own privacy measures. For instance, you can sign up for one of these services using an email address that’s only used for that service.
  • Treat every call like it’s recorded. Avoid saying or doing anything you don’t want to be recorded. So disable your mic and camera if you’re not using them.
  • Use the old-fashioned method. Try a traditional phone call instead of a videoconference. Unless you need to see the screen, a phone call will work just fine.

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