[Competitor]'s messed up approach to privacy, and the news about it

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August 10, 2023

In today's digital age, user privacy is more important than ever. That's why businesses that update their terms of service in a way that hurts user privacy are taking a big risk. Not only will they likely lose customers, but they could also face legal repercussions.

By now you’ve probably heard the news that Zoom had updated their policies to allow them to train their AIs with your data, as well as their announcement that that was all a mistake and that sharp-eyed readers can see they still give themselves permission to use your data.

In some ways we’re competitors with Zoom, and all this news highlights some of the differences between them and us. We know there are people who’d prefer to have a relationship with us, rather than them, so here’s a few more details about how we think and work.

TL;DR we support privacy and consent, and if you do too, we’d love to serve as your online event platform.

Consent and privacy are really important, to us & society

We’ve come a long way in understanding how important consent is, especially in the past few decades. As a child, I remember being pressured into hugs and other physical affection with family members, even when I didn’t want it. Now we understand that teaching kids they have the right to say “no” to hugs with older relatives is an important part of raising a generation that supports people being in charge of their own bodies. Knowing from childhood that you have the right to say “no” makes our society better for everyone.

It’s always struck me as wrong that, just by loading a webpage, you’re agreeing to a contract that can have pretty much anything in it. I’m one of those weirdos who actually reads Terms of Service and Privacy Policies, and I’ve been shocked by what I’ve found there.

Privacy policies on websites are a place where consent, in practice, hasn’t caught up to what we understand is important, and what we think is right. Legally you can be bound to a contract that you’ve never read, just because you clicked on a website and they made it possible for you to read their Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. That seems ridiculous, but my lawyer has told me that’s the way things are. (Of course I’m not a lawyer; don’t take my words as legal advice!)

Have you ever asked an AI to finish the sentence “My social security number is ___”? Some AI researchers tried exactly that, and found what you might expect: social security numbers that appeared in the training data were given to the users of the AI. This is an example (and there are lots of others) of the kinds of unintended consequences of training AIs without being very picky about your data. I learned more in Janelle Shane’s book You Look Like A Thing And I Love You which is a fun read, and you can get a lot of the basics from her blog: aiweirdness.com

So, a company that has lots of customers that has the right to change the agreement you make with them without telling you (which, it seems, they do) can do things that have consequences they weren’t thinking of.

Want to know more about us, our values, and what we offer? 



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