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Video meeting competitors swoop in as trust in Zoom’s security falters.

(TECH NEWS) If you don’t want your meeting Zoombombed, here are some alternatives that have been around for a little while with better security.

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Zoom has been a go-to service for people during the COVID-19 pandemic, since stay-at-home orders began taking effect in early March. You can hardly go online without hearing someone in your circle posting about a recent Zoom meeting. However, with Zoom’s recent security issues, people are looking towards other video meeting platforms to fulfill their social distancing needs and competitors are answering that call.

For weeks, other video call services have been waving their arms in the distance begging people to remember they exist. Zoom’s recent fall from grace is a wide-open door for competitors. Among them are Skype and Google who have both recently launched new features with the goal of enticing users to their platforms.

Skype’s new feature is called Meet Now. It allows users to video chat or start a meeting without signing-up for an account. Meet Now utilizes all of Skypes standard meeting features such as screen share, recording, background blur, and chat functions. It is a good low-committal choice if you are looking for a tool to use on your laptop, but if you want a mobile version there is a catch. In order to use the mobile version of Meet Now you do need to download the Skype App, although you don’t need to have a Microsoft account to use the app. Depending on how you feel about adding another app to your phone, it could be the way to go.

Google isn’t launching another product, rather they are working to bring some of the features people have loved on competitor platforms to their own arsenal. Google Meet is their video call service currently available for use on Chrome, Firefox, and Edge.

It is rolling out a new gallery view that looks a whole lot like Zoom. Before the change, Google Meet users could only see four participants at a time on-screen. The new gallery view will allow users to see up to sixteen participants at one time. It’s still less than Zoom’s capacity, but this is a step up. If you’re meeting with a small or mid-sized group, Google Meet just became a more viable option.

The great battle for top video call service isn’t going to stop anytime soon. Although some states are beginning to relax their stay-at-home orders, many employers are keeping employees home and limiting the amount of people in the office. This situation has been a huge opportunity for companies to stretch the limits of their remote working capacities and not all of them are in a rush to return to the way things were before.

Staff Writer, Natalie Gonzalez earned her B.A. in English and a Creative Writing Certificate from the University of Texas at Austin. She is a writer and social media nerd with a passion for building online communities.

Tech News

Google gets sued for misleading name ‘Incognito mode’

(TECH NEWS) Incognito mode was a way to stay safe while searching right? Wrong! Google is getting sued because of its misleading naming.

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Have you ever played hide and seek? Of course you have, you were a child once. But imagine opposite hide and seek, where you get blind folded, and placed somewhere; then everyone just stands there looking at you. That’s pretty creepy, but that’s basically what Google incognito mode actually does.

I think many people expect that something called incognito mode, would basically stop your searches, visits, and form information from being seen by anyone else. In actuality it puts a blindfold on the device you’re using, and that’s it. Everyone else can get all the information you thought was being held secret.

This may not come as a shock to many people, but enough have cried out to bring a class action lawsuit to Google for misleading its users. Google responds “Incognito mode in Chrome gives you the choice to browse the internet without your activity being saved to your browser or device. As we clearly state each time you open a new incognito tab, websites might be able to collect information about your browsing activity during your session.”, and they are not wrong. It does state it clearly every time you open the browser.

The lawsuit is on the grounds that the tech giant intentionally misled users with the name incognito mode, and that makes sense to me. I mean when spies, or ninjas, or what-have-you go to fade into the shadows, they don’t just put some cloth on their face, and wander around bumping into things, that kind of defeats the purpose.

If anything, all it’s really doing is saving your device some hardware space, so storage saving mode would ring a more apt name in this case. I’m glad someone is doing something about it, but they should reach further, Safari has very similar language. They just leave off the actual warnings, and stick with the part about your particular device.

The best way to keep your data yours, so no one else can take it is through a VPN. They scramble your IP address which gives location data, and access to your computer, and we have you covered with this story about 5 that are inexpensive.

I do hope law firm Boies Schiller & Flexner can win the minimum $5b they want from google, but also pay out more than the $5,000 to the 3 current plaintiffs.

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Google begins evolving Hangouts into Google Chat

(TECH NEWS) Google is transitioning from Hangouts, and Meet to Chat to offer what they think consumers want. No more competing with themselves.

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What is your favorite instantaneous way to communicate with your team these days? Phone call, text, video call, group text message, email, or instant message?

It might depend on the team members and their preferences, but organizations and business owners run the gamut on IM (Instant Messaging) software: Slack, Skype for Business, MS Teams, and Google Chat to name a few. There have also been several that worked well for smaller companies and startups like HipChat by Atlassian. These are often used in addition to still meetings, conference calls, and emails but depending on the culture of the organization, they may love IM, and require it to have a wider range of capabilities that just copy (i.e. photo and file attachments, groupings, privacy settings, focused team, or group channels)

To be fair, there are varying degrees of interest by employees in instant messaging. Some love the idea that you can quickly reach out to a coworker and ask a question, and some find it bothersome and would prefer an email so they can file and sort topics easily (or if it’s really that quick, a phone call or stopping by to ask – if they are in the same space – not COVID-19 alternative working).

This begs the question, does IM allow for more remote working capabilities, and does that mean Google is on to something that they may have just hit the right time and need? The truth of email is that we are becoming less and less interested in reading long forms of copy, and want the information quickly.

Google consolidated their people working on communications tool to one team and is moving Hangouts to Google Chat as well as quickly integrating Google Meet for everyone (you can start a video meeting from within your Gmail, so think Zoom but not having to leave your email – assuming you’re on the G-suite).

If timing is everything, this could be a really smart move for them. Do you even remember Google Hangouts? This was a product launched originally as a feature of Google+, and then became a stand-alone product in 2013. It incorporated video and voice call capabilities for individuals or groups. The thing is, in 2013, I think many people were still using IM through their work email (which was dominated by Microsoft Outlook and PCs). For whatever reason, people just weren’t really using it that way. Most likely people could use it with their internal teams, but would have to use Chat for external users.

The history of Instant Messaging is kind of fun to review – starting with AOL in 1997 when they launched AIM. Now pretty much every platform has a version of the instant message, and people are extremely accustomed to short exchanges and ways to reach out quickly. People frequently use text, Twitter, iMessage, GroupMe, and Facebook Messenger among other ways to quickly reach out, break through the clutter, and hopefully hear a response back pretty quickly.

It appears that Google hopes to offer the capabilities that their users need – when they realized it seemed that business users were using Chat within their organizations, but having to use Hangouts to speak to those outside of that company. Right now, this is only for business users, but they are likely to see how to roll it out to all customers now that they’ve added the Meet capabilities.

According to Android Police, “Furthermore, it’ll soon be possible for G Suite users to message other G Suite users from outside their organization starting May 26. Anyone not in your company will have an ‘External’ label next to their name in the Google Chat UI so there’s no confusion. You’ll also be able to add any contacts to group chats so long as you designate them as ‘External.’ This will only apply to new rooms, though — any you’ve already created will have to remain internal-only rooms.”

It looks like Google is working on getting rid of Hangouts for good, and broadening Google Chat, but there could be some other products in the meantime. Will this change how you use your G-suite?

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Tech News

A look into why AI couldn’t save the world from COVID-19

(TECH NEWS) AI is only as powerful and intelligent as the teams building it, but we just don’t have the data yet. So perhaps, we just aren’t there quite yet.

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COVID-19 AI

Even in the best of times, the human race can hardly be defined by our patience in the face of uncertainty. COVID-19 has rocked our feelings of safety and security. Hospitals have struggled to keep up with demand for care, and researchers are working tirelessly to create a vaccine. Early on in the fight against this virus, some looked to artificial intelligence technology to lead the pack in finding a solution to the global health crisis, but science takes time and AI is no different.

Over two months ago, when COVID-19 was still most prevalent in China, researchers were already attempting to use AI to fight the virus’ spread. As Wired reports, researchers in Wuhan, China attempted to screen for COVID-19 by programming an AI to analyze chest CTs of patients with pneumonia.

The AI would then decipher if the patient’s pneumonia stemmed from COVID-19 or something less insidious. This plan failed for the same reason many pursuits do – a lack of time and data to pull it off.

The United Nations and the World Health Organization examined the lung CT tool, but it was deemed unfit for widespread use. The lung CT tool, and all other AI driven projects, are limited by the humans designing and operating them.

We have struggled to collect and synthesize data in relation to COVID-19, and as a result tools, like the lung CT scans, cannot hope to succeed. AI is only as powerful and intelligent as the teams building it, so perhaps, we just aren’t there quite yet. Our tenacity and optimism continue to drive AI forward, but progress can only be sped up so much.

Like all science, AI has its limitations, and we cannot expect it to be a miracle cure for all our problems. It requires data, experimentation, and testing just like any other scientific pursuit. There are many problems to unlock before AI can be a leader in the driving force for positive change, but its shortcomings do not outweigh its potential. AI couldn’t save us from COVID-19, but as researchers continue to learn from this global event, AI may still save us in the future.

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