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Move over, Zoom: Google’s video conferencing is now free for everyone

Zoom’s rapid ascension during the COVID-19 pandemic has been nothing short of remarkable. Once a decently-popular app for business meetings and group projects, the platform exploded in popularity as more businesses took their operations online.

Now, Zoom is very much a household name in terms of use and popularity. But that hasn’t stopped the platform from stumbling in recent weeks — particularly in the realm of security. Tap or click here to see the Zoom security settings you need to change now.

Zoom’s reign as king of the video conferencing platforms may be coming to an end soon, though. Facebook has updated Messenger to allow for group video chats of up to 50 people. And now, Google is stepping in with its own entry by giving Google account-holders free access to Google Meets. Is it worth making the switch?

Say hello to Google Meet

On April 29, Google announced that Google Meet, its enterprise video conferencing service, would be available to all Google account-holders free of charge.

In what was perhaps a veiled shot at Zoom’s security fumbles, Google outlined several key features designed to protect users’ data, as well as their experience chatting and collaborating with friends and coworkers. These features include the following items:

  • Host controls to admit or deny entry to a chat room
  • No anonymous users. You must have a Google Account to create a room or join a room created by another Google user
  • Complex meeting codes that cannot be easily guessed or brute-forced
  • End-to-end encryption
  • No plugins required, removing additional security risks
  • Dedicated, secure mobile apps
  • Compliant with multiple regulatory and security standards like GDPR and HIPAA, COPPA and FERPA

Compared to Zoom, which has scant security settings, these features are a boon. In particular, the ban on anonymous users and the ability to deny entry to your room are some of the best options hosts have to stop chat hijackers like ZoomBombers. Tap or click here to find out more about ZoomBombing and the chaos it causes.

Google also stated that G Suite Essentials, which includes Meet for teams and workplaces, will also be available for free through September 30. You will have to fill out an application to qualify, though.

Google hasn’t set a specific release date for free Google Meet access, but the company plans on rolling the feature out to specific users starting next week. The rollout will be gradual, so not everyone will get immediate access.

This all sounds great, but what’s the catch?

As with any major internet service, the free edition will come with some tradeoffs. For example, meetings are limited to 60 minutes for free users, but this won’t take effect until after September 30.

Additionally, you need a Google Account in order to use and access this service. While that may not sound bad on its own, this also means your search history data, YouTube viewer history, and Google Meets chat history will be saved and collected as part of your digital footprint with Google. That’s a lot of data going to just one company.

Of course, you can get ahead of Google by deleting what they know about you before you start meeting up on Google Meet. That way, you’re starting with a clean slate before Google starts asking for even more data. Tap or click here to see how you can delete what Google knows about you.

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