Recommendations on VoIP/video Chat Tools
Secure solutions for voice/video calls
Secure communications via email may not be possible or suitable in a specific situation.
Telecommunications companies may try to monitor or intercept calls going through their network.
Popular tools like Skype or Zoom are not advisable solutions for human rights defenders at risk.
Depending on their threat model, other commercial services like Google Hangouts can also be contraindicated.
1:1 video calls
For end-to-end encrypted 1:1 voice and video calls, we can recommend:
- Wire - an open source desktop and mobile app for end-to-end encrypted messaging and voice & video calls. No phone number is required to sign up. Messaging supports both 1:1 and group conversations, and calls support both 1:1 calls and group calls with 10 or fewer participants. For more information on calls, check the section on Multi-party video calls below.
- From the Wire Support website: Audio and video calls, call settings
- Signal - an open source desktop and mobile app for end-to-end encrypted messaging and voice & video calls. A phone number is required to sign up. Signal supports messaging for 1:1 and group conversations, and supports both 1:1 calls and group calls for groups of eight or fewer people.
- From the Signal Support website: How to start a voice or video call
- Signal support: Group Calling - Voice or Video
- Further useful information on the Signal Support website: How to install Signal on Android, iOS, desktop
- The Intercept’s guide: How to Use Signal Without Giving Out Your Phone Number
Multi-party video calls
Both Wire and Signal provide end-to-end encrypted video and voice calls. However, as both services only allow group calls with a small number of participants (maximum 10 for Wire and 8 for Signal), there might be cases where these platforms do not fit everyone’s needs.
On platforms where group video calls are not end-to-end encrypted, their security depends on TLS/HTTPS being properly implemented, and on the entity that is hosting the service. When choosing a platform, the user is trusting that platform with the confidentiality of their conversations. If the client does not feel comfortable trusting another party with access to this information, then they may need to explore the possibility of self-hosting, or find a platform they do trust.
Jitsi Meet is a browser-based video conference option. It was developed by the same team as Jitsi, the desktop voice and messaging client. The main difference is that you don’t need to install a client for your computer, since you will connect to a Jitsi Meet server using your browser. You can try this solution simply by going to the official Jitsi Meet website.
Since this service is not end-to-end encrypted, we recommend an instance of Jitsi Meet hosted by a partner who you trust. Some examples could include:
If the client has system administrator capacity within their organization, they can also choose to self-host a Jitsi Meet instance. Instructions for installing Jitsi Meet in a server can be found here or they can use the public Ansible role by the tech collective Systemli. Greenhost’s Eclips.is platform has a pre-configured setup for launching a Jitsi Meet instance on their cloud as well.
- Wire - For video calls with 10 or fewer participants, we recommend Wire. Group and 1:1 calls are end-to-end encrypted, and the audio and video quality is pretty good and stable. Participants can connect through the mobile or desktop app.
- From the Wire Support website: Group calls
- Signal - Signal also allows group voice and video calls. Groups of eight or fewer members can start a video or voice call. Group and 1:1 calls are end-to-end encrypted. Group members can join a call from the desktop or mobile app.
- Signal support: Group Calling - Voice or Video
- Other proprietary solutions for multi-party calls include appear.in, talky.io, GoToMeeting, and Google Hangouts Meet.
Multi-party video learning platforms
If the client is interested in hosting remote video learning, they may want to consider using the open-source video platform BigBlueButton. There are some commercial providers that also offer hosting support if the client doesn’t have the technical capacity.
If video is not strictly necessary, and bandwidth is low, it is worth proposing multi-party audio calls. Mumble is an open source, low-latency, high quality voice chat software that can be self-hosted on the client’s server.
- To use Mumble, the participants in the conversation need to install a client:
- Mumble for Windows, Mac, and Linux
- Plumble for Android: Google Play - F-Droid
- Mumblefy for iOS
- Mumble servers managed by trusted parties:
- kefir.red (Mexico) - Instructions in Spanish
- mumble.contaminati.net (Italy)
- fala.navemae.xyz (Brazil) - Instructions in Portuguese
- mumble.riseup.net (USA)
- mumble.codigosur.net (Costa Rica)
- talk.systemli.org (Germany)
- Instructions for installing Mumble on a server
- If the Mumble conversation needs to be password-protected, a private channel can be created. To create a private channel, right-click when you connect to Mumble and set the name and a password for the channel. When you leave the channel, the logs and conversation will disappear.
Rocket.Chat - an open source fully featured Slack clone - has plugins for webrtc videobridging and OTR-encrypted chat conversations. It can be self-hosted as a standalone, or within a sandstorm.io instance, and could be more useful for organizations looking to consolidate Slack-style communications with a voice option.
If we consider other tools for voice and video call, we should use the Confidentiality-Integrity-Availability Framework to evaluate them and make sure that they include these features:
- End-to-End encrypted whenever possible
- Easy to install
- Containing user authentication
- Open source
- Hosted by trusted entities
For more information on how to choose a video conferencing platform, consult the following resources:
- Freedom of the Press Foundation’s guide to Evaluating video conferencing tools
- This Videoconferencing Guide provides a list of video conference platforms and compares their features and protections.