Zoom video conferencing solution
The University of Freiburg has procured a quota of licenses for the video conferencing solution of the company Zoom Video Communications Inc.. Zoom can be used for lectures and seminars.
What is Zoom?
Zoom is a commercial, cloud-based video conferencing solution by
Zoom Video Communications, Inc. that has emerged as the world's most reliable and intuitive video conferencing tool during the current Corona pandemic.
Why is the university offering Zoom?
Due to the SARS-CoV-2 crisis, all educational institutions face the great challenge of moving face-to-face courses completely online. There are various tools available for this. Universities are particularly challenged when courses are aimed at large groups of participants: technically speaking, more than 25 participants are considered a large group for most videoconferencing systems. In Zoom, up to 300 participants can join a video conference. Our locally hosted systems Jitsi, Adobe Connect or BigBlueButton can be used for many small events, however the large number of simultaneous online courses needed in the summer term and the expected large groups of participants, push our systems to the limit.
We have also tested other commercial video conferencing solutions besides Zoom and found Zoom to offer the greatest possible benefit for teaching. This was also confirmed by the deans of studies.
Criticism concerning data privacy protection and security in Zoom
We have looked into critical reports about security issues in Zoom in great detail. During the corona crisis, Zoom has grown like no other system. The target groups have also shifted, so that in the past weeks, both the functionality and the security of zoom have been questioned and critically examined by many. The lack of protection of running meetings against "zoom bombing", security gaps in the zoom clients and incorrect information about encryption settings particularly came to attention. In addition, as with many other cloud-based conference systems, the data is transferred via US-American servers.
During the test phase, we have therefore followed zoom's reaction to this criticism closely, together with the data protection officer and the university's legal department; and we have exchanged views with several other universities on their scenarios. For many of the criticized points, corrections have already been implemented through client updates and improved data protection default settings. Another major security package is announced for the end of May.
In the current exceptional situation, we are, however, forced to gauge whether such a service will be more useful or harmful. Ultimately, after the negotiation of the data protection agreements and the configuration of the parameters, we now don’t see any arguments why the use of Zoom would be high risk.
Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee one hundred percent compliance with data privacy protection and security. After all, this is a cloud service and we have only limited access to its functionality. We try to respond to all concerns with transparent and extensive communication and information. There is therefore no obligation to use Zoom, especially as we do offer alternatives.
Privacy-friendly pre-configuration of the university licenses
The following settings have been made to increase the software’s level of data privacy protection and security compared to the default settings. Some of these settings have been locked and cannot be changed by the users; other settings can be changed by a meeting owner if necessary.
- All meetings are protected with a 9-digit password.
- Waiting rooms for participants before entering a meeting are set by default.
- Automatic start of the camera and release of own audio are blocked when joining a meeting, i.e. participants have to actively switch on their own audio and camera.
- Screen sharing for participants is disabled by default and must be enabled by the host of the meeting, if required.
- The lecturer’s guide recommends using the default settings for recording, so that only shared screens and audio and image of speakers are included. The chat history is not recorded. Recording is optional and needs to be started actively by the lecturer. In the above scenarios participants will not be recorded, because they are muted during recording.
- Making recordings available: Recordings are later only made available via the University of Freiburg's own systems. In the Zoom Cloud recordings are automatically deleted after 30 days.
Attention tracking is blocked.
Zoom accounts - licenses for the University of Freiburg
On behalf of the University and at the request of the majority of the Deans of Studies, the computer center has acquired a quota of fee-based zoom accounts for 12 months (until 19.04.2021). These accounts allow video conferences with up to 300 participants without a time limit. In addition, there are another two licenses that allow up to 1000 participants.
How do I get a license?
The zoom licenses are available to lecturers and employees of the university. Initially they were distributed by registration in the faculties.
Institutions and persons with no direct affiliation to a faculty can send an e-mail to email@example.com. They will then personally receive further information.
If you are interested in using the licenses allowing up to 1000 participants, please also contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teaching with Zoom
Basically, Zoom can be used as a replacement for lecture rooms. For the different scenarios in teaching we refer to the information provided by the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology. We have adapted the instructions to the situation and settings of the University of Freiburg.