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After Consumer Reports’ evaluation, Cisco sheds light on the videoconferencing platform Webex’s privacy and terms-of-service policies

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Cisco is making it easier to find out what personal information the company collects and how it uses it during videoconferencing calls on its Webex platform.

The changes come in response to a recent Consumer Reports evaluation of the platform’s privacy policy and terms of service. Consumer Reports also evaluated the privacy policies for Google – with Hangout, Meet, and Duom – and Microsoft – with Skype and Teams.

All the privacy policies left unanswered questions, said Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology policy at Consumer Reports. But the companies seemed to reserve the right to access recordings of meetings for business purposes, along with details such as who was on a call. The Consumer Reports researchers found the privacy policy and terms-of-service documents were short on details and contained confusing language.

Consumer Reports is looking into videoconferencing services because millions of consumers are using these platforms to stay in touch during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cisco made things clearer on Monday when it linked from the Webex sign-up window to a detailed description of the platform’s data practices, Brookman said. The description, which Cisco calls a “privacy data sheet,” had been posted on the website before, but in an obscure place where a user was unlikely to find it.

“It’s progress,” said Brookman. “The improved Cisco policy, with the more prominent placement of data sheet, does put in place some important and meaningful limitations on what they do with our data.”

These statements are legally enforceable, she said, and give organizations including Consumer Reports the information they need to do evaluations on behalf of users.

The Consumer Reports’ evaluation of videoconferencing services by Cisco, Google, and Microsoft followed an evaluation of privacy policies for Zoom. After a Consumer Reports’ story appeared on Zoom, it tightened sections of its privacy policy and made other changes to its privacy practices, Brookman said.

For more information, see “Cisco Clarified Privacy Policy for Webex Videoconferencing.”

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