The Spanish and French governments have turned to an open-source solution, Jitsi Meet, to host online meetings and press conferences. Jitsi Meet is a video conferencing tool that doesn’t require the download of any software or the creation of an account
The French Inter-ministerial Directorate for Digital Affairs (Direction interministérielle du numérique, DINUM) has adopted Jitsi as an inter-ministerial web conferencing service promoting team cooperation across governmental bodies. DINUM built a custom video conferencing service, based on the open-source code of Jitsi Meet, deployed on governmental servers using advanced encryption. During the COVID-19 crisis, the Spanish government chose Jitsi to host their press conferences using the live chat feature of the tool to allow interactions between journalists and government officials.
How does it work?
Developed in 2013 in the Strasbourg University (France) and put forward by the French government as a recommended open source software, Jitsi defines itself as “a set of open-source projects that allows you to easily build and deploy secure video conferencing solutions”. Among these projects, two are at the heart of the Jitsi technology. The first one, Jitsi Videobridge allows to run thousands of video streams from a unique server during multiuser video communication. The software relays from a single server the video call streams to all participants. The second, Jitsi Meet is a secure online video conferencing tool. Several complementary projects have been developed by Jitsi to increase the number of features available to users. Recording or encryption are just few examples.
Jitsi Meet is freely available to everyone via the website and mobile applications. Public and private organisations can also further customise and use it, along with other solutions developed by Jitsi. The use of Jitsi Meet doesn’t require the download of any software or the creation of an account, as videoconferences can be set up online in a few clicks. For mobile users, applications are available for iOS and Android.
Videoconferences through Jitsi Meet benefit from facilitation features such as appointing a moderator, using the “raise your hand” button or syncing team calendars. It also eases distant collaborative work through sharing one’s desktop, collective editing of documents or a built-in chat. Jitsi Meet is also designed to protect meeting confidentiality through encryption, password protected virtual rooms and the possibility to host meetings on personal servers.
Is it safe ?
As a service not requiring any registration, the personal data users choose to enter, such as names or email addresses, are fully optional and shared only with other meeting participants. This information is not retained after the meeting nor are messages from the chat, they are destroyed after meetings end. When it comes to the meeting itself, while Jitsi does not offer end to end encryption yet, it is possible for users, such as DINUM, to use their machine as a server to keep control over decrypted data. However, Jitsi is working towards end-to-end encryption (E2EE) and has been making some breakthroughs in this endeavour by publishing a first draft E2EE code on GitHub to launch a testing phase.
Would you like to find more open-source solutions to help with remote work? Have a look at the Digital Response to COVID-19 repository!
- Jitsi page on GitHub with all available code
- Detailed overview of the French web conferencing tool
- French governmental list of recommended open source software
- Information on how the Spanish government uses Jitsi Meet