In July 2020, six data protection and privacy authorities from Australia, Canada, Gibraltar, Hong Kong SAR, China, Switzerland and the United Kingdom jointly signed an open letter to video teleconferencing (VTC) companies. The letter highlighted concerns about whether privacy safeguards were keeping pace with the rapid increase in use of VTC services during the global pandemic, and provided VTC companies with some guiding principles to address key privacy risks.
The joint signatories invited five of the biggest VTC companies to reply to the letter. Microsoft, Google, Cisco and Zoom responded, setting out how they take the principles into account in the design and development of their VTC services. Following a review of the responses, the joint signatories further engaged with these companies to better understand the steps they take to implement, monitor, and validate the privacy and security measures put in place.
This activity is an example of constructive engagement between the privacy regulatory community and the organisations we regulate. You can read our final observations here.
The work has allowed the joint signatories to engage, in a coordinated manner and with a uniform voice, with some of the largest and fastest growing technology companies, whose services are used worldwide. It has also given those companies the opportunity to explain their approach to data protection and privacy through direct and practical interaction with a subset of the global privacy regulatory community representing citizens from jurisdictions across four continents.
The dialogue between VTC companies and data protection authorities has proven effective, efficient and mutually beneficial. Moving forward, the joint signatories highlight this model of engagement as valuable and replicable in circumstances where emerging issues would benefit from open dialogue to help set out regulatory expectations, clarify understanding, identify good practice, and foster public trust in innovative technologies.
These observations are specific to this context and the future development of these technologies following our engagement with the companies involved and in light of their rapid growth during the pandemic; particularly in health and education settings. It is not a formal opinion with wider application beyond these uses.