As a reaction of our announcement encouraging our community to host online events, we received this amazing manifesto from our member Josh Clement - sharing essential information on why and how to use open source video conferencing software. It's super essential information, so please don't hesitate to spread the word!

Surveillance capitalism is a serious threat to democracy. Google pioneered the model of providing fundamental digital infrastructure in order to collect user behavior data, from which prediction products are extracted and sold to advertisers. The techniques for doing this are widely applicable in the domination of free peoples, and Google's expertise in abusing our data is used to develop all their services. This includes not only the mass manipulation of the public for petty consumer goods, but also a deep collaboration with the US intelligence and military to, among myriad less tangible projects,  identify and execute targets of drone strikes.

This has always been justified to us by our free choice to use their software, by the Orwellian 'usefulness', 'empowerment' and 'relevance' it brings to our lives. The current crisis is a new opportunity for Google, Zoom, Microsoft and Facebook to exercise yet more civil innovation, making the use of their surveillance tools mandatory for our work, further normalizing and institutionalizing their business models. An employee may not say no to Zoom's privacy policy when his/her boss sets up a meeting on Zoom's servers. Google and Facebook have deliberately broken privacy laws and stonewalled investigations for years at a time, waiting for citizens to get used to being tracked by them across 97% of the web's most visited websites, having images of their homes put online with no notification or consent, having their private, direct communications effectively read by advertisers, having their location tracked without notification via their phones' bluetooth and wifi signals through physical public space, having their needs for social participation steer them into private and monopolized digital 'public' spaces, etc. Surveillance capital has proven capable of wielding enormous power in dissuading government at all levels worldwide from imposing new regulations and punishments for their outstanding crimes. No government today is willing to prioritize our civil liberties at further cost to our ability to work through this crisis. We must ensure that we do not enter another permanent "state of exception". What is at stake in the long term is not only a loss of privacy and more invasive marketing, but yet more overt control, such as the implementation of a privatized form of China's surveillance scoring, where your access to transportation, insurance, healthcare, credit, etc. is contingent on algorithmic evaluation of your moment-to-moment behavior. see Shoshana Zuboff's 'The Age of Surveillance Capitalism' for a comprehensive explanation of the topic and details of the points I didn't otherwise support.

Zoom's privacy policy allows the collection of name, contact information, employment information, computer hardware, OS, IP address, etc. to be used and combined with personal data collected by other sources in the creation of prediction products to be sold to advertisers. Your use of it at work gives permission to Zoom to create and sell prediction products about you as a private individual. Because we do not have access to the source code for Zoom's client software, we could not be made aware of what information it is able to collect about your private computer or phone and whether it even abides by its privacy policy, even when the backend is hosted by your employer. The client software is also known to track your use of it on your own device, reporting without notification whether it is the active window.

Therefore, we must make use of existing high-quality communications alternatives. Jitsi is free software, released on the Apache 2.0 license. This allows anyone to view the source code, to modify it, and to redistribute it. These freedoms enable a dedicated community of users, volunteer coders, and some employees of 8x8 to develop it as a public good, and it is every bit as capable as Zoom of getting us through this crisis. We are dispossessed of our civil right to privacy if we are forced to cede that right in order to work. A political victory in securing our rights to privacy as employees is only possible if we decide to use jitsi (or other free software) instead of relying on Silicon Valley, allowing them to lead us in pretending that their model is indispensable.

Jitsi follows the ethical model characteristic of free software generally, 'free' being used as in 'freedom', not 'gratis'. No collection of personal data is necessary to stream video and audio between us. No logs need to be kept. Your data does not need to be sent to third parties. You do not need to run secret code on your own computer. You do not need to accept the declaration of an abuse of your rights. There does not need to be payment, either in the form of money or the raw material of your attention and behavior from which prediction products can be extracted. The only third party that needs to be trusted is the operator of the hosting server. Because the server software is free software too, we are all empowered to operate our own jitsi servers. We are empowered to pressure our employers to operate servers running jitsi so that we can communicate without reliance on any third party. In addition to respecting our privacy, this would be institutionally more secure than trusting Silicon Valley with, for example, DTU's internal discussions over patentable technologies. Free software empowers users in an ethical, sustainable, and scalable manner, creating robust institutions that respect us as citizens.

As an amateur, I set up a jitsi server in about a week of evening and weekend time. For a professional (and me, now that I know how), it could be a 30 minute procedure. If this project succeeds, it would be proof to our employers, our colleagues, and our governments that we don't need to give up our civil rights in order to survive this crisis. I can't promise to use unlimited time, but I am willing to consult for free insofar as I'm capable to assist anyone who wants to set up a server for their workplace or organization. Send me any questions, even if you have no idea how to begin.

In solidarity,

Josh Clement

A huge shout out to Josh for sharing your knowledge and raising awareness about the privacy issue with zoom! Josh is a PhD student at DTU Physics, and we're super grateful for him putting his expertise out there. If you also have relevant knowledge related to holistic sustainability you want to share in this page, don't hesitate to get in touch!