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30 Apr, 2020 03:10

Google muscles into videoconferencing with ‘secure’ Zoom competitor as 3 out of 5 Americans don’t trust Big Tech with private data

Google muscles into videoconferencing with ‘secure’ Zoom competitor as 3 out of 5 Americans don’t trust Big Tech with private data

Google has released its videoconferencing app Meet for free, angling for a slice of the rapidly-expanding market even as a majority of Americans reveal they wouldn’t trust the company with their Covid-19 infection status.

Meet, which according to Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai is adding three million users daily, will be available to anyone with an email address and a Google account in the coming weeks, the tech behemoth revealed on Wednesday in a blog post.

The videoconferencing platform allows up to 100 people to chat together and was previously available only to subscribers of Google’s premium “G Suite” software. A 60-minute time limit won’t be enforced until the end of September, the company promised.

A videoconferencing gold rush has erupted in the wake of Covid-19-related lockdowns worldwide, and Google’s Meet expansion comes less than a week after Facebook’s decision to release its own “Rooms” videoconferencing platform for Messenger ahead of schedule. Ironically, Zoom was slammed in the press and even sued earlier this month for sharing users’ data with Facebook without their consent. Perhaps with that fact in mind, Facebook reassured Rooms users that it would not be monetizing the platform – a strategy Google has echoed.

“Your Meet data is not used for advertising, and we don’t sell your data to third parties,” the company stressed, insisting “our approach to security is simple: make products safe by default.”

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Millions of users who’ve unwittingly had their data exploited by the tech giant might beg to differ, and the results of a Washington Post-University of Maryland poll published Wednesday reveal that despite the media hype surrounding Google’s collaboration with Apple to roll out the semi-official US coronavirus testing app, Americans aren’t exactly thrilled with the idea of trusting the megacorporation with even more private information.

Half the poll respondents who owned smartphones said they would “definitely or probably not” use a contact-tracing app created by Google and Apple. While political leanings and concern about becoming seriously ill with Covid-19 influenced Americans’ willingness to embrace such a platform, most cited their distrust of Big Tech as one of the reasons for their reluctance, specifically their concern about whether Google, Apple and their peers would protect the privacy of their health data. Just 43 percent of smartphone users claimed to trust Big Tech, according to the poll. 

That might sound like a speed-bump for the companies, which have hinted the earliest version of the platform could be released by the end of the week. Oxford University researchers claimed earlier this month that upwards of 60 percent of a population would have to sign on to a contact-tracing app in order for it to be successful in stopping the spread of Covid-19. However, Google and Apple already have plans to embed the platform in future operating system updates, meaning smartphone users won’t have a choice of whether they want to download it or not.

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The corporations recently stopped referring to their app as a “contact tracing” platform and switched to “exposure notification,” attempting to make the bitter pill of Big-Tech-as-Big-Brother easier to swallow. A member of the EU’s executive branch went even further last week after a phone call with Apple CEO Tim Cook, describing the program as a “deconfinement app.” After two months of lockdowns, who doesn’t want ‘deconfinement’?!

Trust in Big Tech might be down, but profits are healthy despite an economy that has been profoundly sickened by the coronavirus pandemic. Alphabet’s share price rose seven percent on Tuesday after the company reported its first-quarter earnings, while Facebook’s own sanguine earnings report the following day triggered a 10 percent bump in stock prices.

Also on rt.com Facebook targets Zoom with beefed-up video-conferencing functions – after Zoom challenged for sharing data with Facebook

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