Working from home during COVID-19 has been a challenge. We’ve coped with isolation, battled screen fatigue, survived broadband nightmares, and fielded surprise guest appearances from kids and pets. Mental health professionals, however, have had to deal with a whole load of extra complications. How do you keep your service accessible while providing a comfortable and safe environment where your clients feel free to share their feelings? How do you nurture the therapeutic alliance through a Zoom window?
Therapists all over the country have risen to these tasks. However, in the rush to switch to remote service provision there is another vital issue that has so far been overlooked: how to ensure the privacy of you and your clients while communicating online.
We know that privacy is essential to the delivery of any therapeutic service. In real life, you take every measure to ensure that whatever your client tells you during a session is held in strictest confidence. The very same guarantee should apply when you talk online. But do you really know who has access to the conversations you have through your videoconferencing software, or what they entitle themselves to do with this information?
The internet that all of us use every day was built on digital surveillance. Many of the popular services we all rely on – including video chat platforms – are subsidised or paid for by the harvesting and aggregation of user data. Information from searches, website visits, shopping, social media, and mobile GPS are collected and combined to build astonishingly detailed profiles, which are then used to nudge us towards a particular emotional or behavioural reaction.
Depending on the content of your profile, the web can look very different – different ads, different social media content; even different job and housing promotions. And remember, web companies don’t just know what we do, but also who we do it with, so it’s not uncommon for our friends and family to receive targeted content related to things that we ourselves have searched for.
Your video app may or may not choose to access the contents of your conversations, but remember that for data aggregators and web marketers, the very fact that your client has been in contact with you is a valuable data point. If they are using their Facebook or Google accounts to sign in to talk to you on Zoom, then these companies now know that your client has sought the services of a therapist. This could lead to them – and their loved ones – receiving content designed to exploit the emotions of individuals who are suffering with depression or have recently experienced a bereavement.
We know this might seem overwhelming, but there are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself and your clients. One is to make a responsible, informed choice about the software you use to communicate with your clients, ensuring that you have absolute clarity about what data is being collected and who it is being shared with.
There are plenty of different options out there, but at Kuva, we think we’ve found the best solution. Our comparison table of the major online communications services shows the varying interpretations of privacy. Our policy is quite simple: we don’t collect or store any data relating to the video, audio or text conversations that take place on our platform. Moreover, we build and maintain all our services ourselves, so when you sign up with us, we promise not to expose you to a confusing network of third-party dependencies. In fact, we aspire to offer you the very same thing you provide to your clients: a one-to-one relationship based on openness and trust. Our staff are always on the line to field any questions or issues you might have, and whilst you probably don’t want to start telling them your deepest darkest secrets, you know you can count on them to handle all your digital privacy woes.
The UK is currently facing an unprecedented mental health crisis, and remote provision will play a vital role in tackling it, even as the pandemic recedes. You use your professional skills to help your clients feel as comfortable and safe as possible, but the right choice of software could make your job a lot easier.
We’ve tried our hardest to translate the most important parts of the face-to-face meeting infrastructure into the digital space, designing it in consultation with therapists. everything we do is designed to provide the same degree of trust and security you and your clients would expect to feel in your own private office. This includes a clean, easy-to-use interface; access by weblink with no downloads, sign-ups or log-ins; secure document transfer and a quick escape button in case the client needs to terminate the call at short notice. We can’t help you with uninvited children and pets, but we can guarantee the online privacy that is integral to that trust relationship. Everything we do is dedicated to supporting the same degree of trust and security you and your clients would expect to feel in your own private office, to allow you to get on with what you do best – by taking care of privacy.
Whether you choose Kuva or another platform, make sure your digital privacy is covered.
Tom Aldridge is the sales manager of Kuva.
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