Category: Video Chat

Is Facetime Coming to Windows?

The answer to this is a bit dicey. Or nuanced. But the explanation is worth it for your safety.

The Basics

Facetime is an Apple-owned iOS app that allows you to video chat with people on their iPhones and iPads,. To date, Facetime has only been able to connect you with other iOS devices. That means if you’re on an Android phone or a Windows computer, you can’t use Facetime!

Upcoming Changes

But in the near future, the iOS on modern iPhones and Apple tablets is going to update to version 15. And that update includes a nice change to Facetime: You’ll then be able to send invite links to non-Apple users, and rope them into your Facetime video chats!

There’s nothing to install, when you do this. Non-Apple users will receive a link that opens the Facetime chat in a browser window. It will probably be similar to receiving a Zoom link. PC and Android users will (still) not be able to initiate a Facetime chat, as only iOS users get to do that.

Why Is This Important?

Unfortunately, the nuance of what’s developing is getting lost in the headlines. Many tech articles are already cheerleading with “Facetime Coming to Windows” and that isn’t exactly true. And it is leading people down bad paths.

When some folks see that kind of news, they immediately search the internet for “Facetime for Windows” or similar. And they find free programs or extensions that claim it will install Facetime on your device. And this leads to an infection or adware getting on their machines.

Please do not install anything that says you can put Facetime on your non-Apple device. It is surely false and will only cause you trouble.

Google Meet is Now Free for All

Google Meet is another option for videoconferencing, and is now free for *all* to use.

https://meet.google.com/

All you need to use it is a Google account. To start a meeting, visit the site and click the big meeting button, and click Continue. Underneath “Meeting ready” is a URL for your meeting — share that with anyone you want and they can use it to join you.

No software installation necessary, enjoy!

Webcam Surveillance Concerns

Modern laptops have built-in webcams, something that we’re all becoming more accustomed to using these days. And when you use your webcam, a light appears next to it. This is to signal to you that your camera is live and capturing your image. When the light goes out, you can assume that it is off.

But there are exceptions to this, rare occurrences that create privacy concerns. The FBI does possess software and skills that can activate a webcam without triggering the light or any other sign. And I’ve just read about a school system that monitored students without notification or consent through school-issued computers.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robbins_v._Lower_Merion_School_District

The newest laptops with webcam come with a physical switch that you can use to close your webcam lens. This is best, and you should use it, so there is no question about when the camera is active or not. If your computer has no closing device for the webcam, then you might consider getting a webcam cover, like:

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=webcam+cover&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Or if you know that you will never use your webcam, you can do like many and affix a post-it or band-aid over the camera lens .In any case, please be aware that your webcam is a vector for an unknown amount of surveillance. It’s probably highly unlikely that someone is watching you… but still, govern yourselves accordingly in front of those things.

Use Skype without Installing or Signing up

During these pandemic times, it seems that almost everyone has had to learn how to video-conference with others. That is, we’re getting on the computer to see and talk to our family, doctor, teacher, etc. through our webcams.

And a suddenly popular program for that is Zoom. Unfortunately, Zoom does not have a great security track-record. There’s a lot in the news about that, and it’s concerning enough to me that I personally will avoid using Zoom. And I have to urge you to keep your kids away from it, and to avoid discussing anything sensitive over Zoom.

The good news is that there are so many free alternatives, offered by long-standing, more secure companies. Take Microsoft, for example: their Skype program is great and often already installed on Windows computers. Even better, Microsoft has just created a way of Skyping with others that don’t have the Skype program.

You can use Skype without installing ANYTHING, without signing up or creating an account! Just go to this website, and start a free video chat now: https://www.skype.com/en/free-conference-call/

And if you are an existing Skype user and want to chat with someone who isn’t, you can still use your Skype program for that. Just click the Meet Now button in your program, and you’ll be given a Skype link you can share with anyone to start a video chat.

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