Google Duo/Google Hangouts/Google Meet

Google Duo/Google Hangouts/Google Meet

Google
Wi-Fi

Review date: Sept. 8, 2021

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Mozilla says

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People voted: Super creepy

Google Duo, Google Hangouts, Google Meet. The various video call options from Google can get a little confusing. Here's the breakdown: Google Duo is a simple, free person-to-person video call app for up to 32 participants. Google Hangouts is free and allows for video calls up to 10 participants, as well as phone calls and text chats. Google Meet is their business-grade video conferencing option for up to 250 participants, built into the paid version of G Suite. There you have it.

What could happen if something goes wrong?

Google Duo is end-to-end encrypted, which is great. Hangouts and Meet aren't, but do use simple encryption, which is only OK. Both Hangouts and Meet require a strong password to login, and you can (and should) set up passwords for sensitive calls or meetings. Duo does not require a password as it is a simple calling app. Users can (and should) passcode protect their phone to keep unwanted people from accessing the app. Google is a big company that does a pretty good job on security. When a Google Project Zero researcher found a security vulnerability in Signal, Facebook, and Google chat apps, Google fixed the bug promptly. Google is a huge ad company though, so know that they can collect data on your use of these apps (not necessarily the content of your calls and messages, but things like how and when you use these apps) and then potentially use that to feed their vast targeted advertising business. They say they never sell this data or share it without a users’ consent. Fortunately, Google does give users a variety of privacy controls to delete and limit the collection of personal data. We've linked to those below. Go check them out and use them to give yourself as much privacy as you can.

mobile Privacy warning Security A.I.

Can it snoop on me? information

Camera

Device: N/A

App: Yes

Microphone

Device: N/A

App: Yes

Tracks location

Device: N/A

App: Yes

What can be used to sign up?

What data does the company collect?

How does the company use this data?

Google uses your personal information “to serve you relevant ads in Google products, on partner websites, and in mobile apps.” According to the company, customers own their data and it does not sell this data to third parties. Google does state it gets paid by advertisers for placing ads to you based on your personal information. Google claims that they "do not use information in apps where you primarily store personal content—including classic Hangouts—for advertising purposes, period". Google claims to send data outside of the organization only with a user's consent.

How can you control your data?

Google provides various privacy controls, accessible via Google Privacy tools. There are several clearly defined ways to delete personal data, incl. deleting data from separate services or deleting a whole Google Account. The retention periods are also listed in the Policy. Google also offers a possibility to set chat retention rules via its Vault service. For Google Duo, hosts can start calls, mute, and stop calls. Pretty simple. For Google Hangouts, hosts can add and remove people from a conversation, mute, and control who can send messages. For Meet, only 'Owners' have the control to pin, mute and remove participants. At the time of writing, Meet does not regulate who can share content at any given time. Once someone is admitted into a meeting, they automatically have the ability to present.

What is the company’s known track record of protecting users’ data?

Average

In January 2021, Google Project Zero security researcher Natalie Silvanovich discovered a logic bug in Google Duo that would allow audio or video to be transmitted without user consent. The bug was promptly fixed. Yes, one Google entity called out another one for a privacy vulnerability!

Can this product be used offline?

N/A

User-friendly privacy information?

Yes

Google offers simplified privacy & safe use information.

Links to privacy information

Does this product meet our Minimum Security Standards? information

Yes

Encryption

Yes

End-to-end encryption: Duo. Only encryption at rest and in transit: Hangouts, Meet.

Strong password

Yes

Both Hangouts and Meet require a strong password to login. Duo does not require a password as it is a simple calling app. Users can and should passcode protect their phone to keep unwanted people from making calls.

Security updates

Yes

Google updates the services a few times a year

Manages vulnerabilities

Yes

Google has a bug bounty program for security vulnerabilities

Privacy policy

Yes

Layered privacy policy in simplified language

Does the product use AI? information

Yes

AI does things like offer suggestions for chats and ad targeting.

Is this AI untrustworthy?

Can’t Determine

What kind of decisions does the AI make about you or for you?

Is the company transparent about how the AI works?

No

Does the user have control over the AI features?

Can’t Determine


News

Google Hangouts vs Google Duo – Which Should You Use?
Tech Junkie
When it comes to social media platforms, video calling, and messaging apps, however, Google took a little time to figure things out. There’s Google Duo and Google Hangouts, coexisting out there. Do you use just one or both? And how do the two apps compare?
Bugs in Signal, Facebook, Google chat apps let attackers spy on users
Bleeping Computer
Vulnerabilities found in multiple video conferencing mobile applications allowed attackers to listen to users' surroundings without permission before the person on the other end picked up the calls.
Rethinking Zoom? How WebEx, Teams, and Google Meet and Duo Compare on Privacy and Security
Inc.com
After a burst of rapid growth, Zoom has lost some luster amid well-publicized zoombombing episodes.
Google Meet vs Google Hangouts vs Google Duo: What's the difference?
Pocket-lint
Google has had a wide range of video and chat solutions over the years, many discontinued and many overlapping in their offering. The current selection is Google Meet, Google Hangouts and Google Duo. But which app should you be using and what do they each offer? We're walking you through the differences to help you decide.
Google adds AI features to G Suite, including ‘Smart Reply’ for Hangouts ChatC
Computerworld
Google is adding new artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to G Suite as it aims to attract more users to its cloud-based productivity apps.

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