As a result of the ongoing corona crisis, a lot of companies, as well as private individuals, have increasingly been making use of video calling applications. The Dutch Data Protection Authority (AP) received many questions on how privacy-compliant these apps are and have analysed the 13 most commonly used apps, in particular, their privacy aspects. This week, the AP published its findings in the form of a privacy decision aid.

What did the AP specifically examine?

The AP focused on understanding what data apps collect, what the apps do with the data, whether the communication is secure, what the revenue model is and whether the data is sent to third parties. The decision aid laying all of this down in a diagram can be found here.  It must be noted that the AP themselves have not investigated in depth all thirteen apps but are instead relying on what the companies’ privacy statements contain. Among the apps are i.e. Zoom, FaceTime, Houseparty, Messenger and Google Hangouts.

What should be taken into account?

When looking at the diagram and deciding which app to use, one should first consider why and for what purpose the video app shall be used. Important factors to keep in mind are for instance the number of people participating in one call and how sensitive the communicated information is. If the video app, serves as a business meeting platform with a client, the security requirements should accordingly be higher. Moreover, should one wish to have a confidential conversation, the AP recommends making use of an app that has end-to-end encryption in place. Additionally, if one would like to avoid having their data processed for targeted advertising purposes, they should look at apps that are financed differently, i.e. through donations.

Guidelines for Organizations

The AP urges organizations wanting to use video calling apps, to thoroughly consider privacy aspects. Depending on the app, different options might be available that will enhance the level of guaranteed privacy, such as the option to conclude a processing agreement. Furthermore, it could be sensible to obtain the paid version of an app in case it offers more privacy. With regards to healthcare institutions, the AP recommends tips for video calling from the NEN, KNMG and LVVP.

The full decision aid by the AP (in Dutch) can be found here.