Privacy, data, and collaboration: The Surfly way
In the recent rush to use technology to connect and collaborate with each other in this new remote world, many of us have assumed those tools are secure and will protect our data. But when is the last time any of us read the Terms and Conditions or the End User License Agreements before we tick the box that says “I agree?” I am as guilty as the next person. When you have a problem that needs solving, or you are trying to connect to someone remotely, and you are told the only way to do that is to download and install some 3rd party software, you typically don’t hesitate. You have a sense of urgency, so you download Zoom, or some other software, double click the icon on your desktop, quickly tick all the boxes, give it all the information it asks for, and move on to the part where you can connect and collaborate with someone else. We don’t think much about what we agreed to or the data we provided until we start reading articles that point out that maybe the software isn’t as secure as we think (like this, this, or this), and we learn there could be some things we aren’t entirely comfortable with when it comes to how our data is shared. And in the new normal of a world gone remote, the need to find and use this technology is growing exponentially, which means the problems are too.
So how is what we do at Surfly different?
When we had the idea for Surfly’s co-browsing technology in 2012, these were all things that played an oversized role in determining how we would build it. We wanted to create a technology that would enable a collaborative browsing experience but didn’t require us to capture any data or require a user to share theirs. And we succeeded. Fast forward eight years and Surfly has grown into co-browsing and video chat technology with over 100,000 users worldwide, across almost every industry including insurance, financial services, health care, automotive, and retail. And we still don’t ask for your personal data.
It’s important to note up front there is a big difference between the co-browsing experience Surfly enables versus the screen sharing experience that is offered by other tools. The quick explanation is that co-browsing takes place in your browser window and allows you to see what someone else is seeing in their browser with almost no lag (it’s blazing fast). Screen sharing shares everything on your screen and is typically much slower with delays and often a blurry screen. If you want to dive into the details of the differences, you can read this post by our founder and CEO Nicholas Piël, which goes in-depth about the technological differences between the two.
So what does all this mean?
It means that while we are currently in a global rush to connect everyone with tools that make it easier for us to collaborate like we are sitting side-by-side, it is still important (or maybe more important than ever) to consider what we are asking our customers to do, and to give up, in order to make this a reality. At Surfly we want our customers, and their customers, to feel safe, secure, and that their privacy is being protected, and here is how we do it:
Quick Cheat Sheet
There is a lot of great information ahead, but if you want the short (TL;DR) version, here you go:
- Using Surfly to co-browse and video chat never requires a software download and is started by clicking a link or button.
- Surfly doesn’t store any data and doesn’t ask you for your personal data. Ever.
- Surfly co-browsing sessions can be started directly from a company’s website so you know you are interacting with an official representative of that company.
No software to download, ever
Imagine going to a clothing store and being told you need to get a special pass just to go in? It takes 3-4 minutes, but without it, you just can’t go in, you have no choice. It sounds ridiculous, and it would be. So why should you have to do the same thing online?
This is the first thing that sets Surfly apart: there is no software to download and you can start a co-browsing session instantly. It sounds pretty simple, and it is. You just click a link or button from your browser or app, and the session begins. The customer who called you for support can instantly show you the issue they are having and you can work together to fix it. The prospective customer who is interested in your product can instantly join your demo and can even take control of the session and show you their current pain points. One click, instant co-browsing and collaboration, nothing to download.
We don’t store data and we don’t ask for your information
Remember that store where you needed a special pass to get in? Now you need to fill out some paperwork with your personal information before someone can actually help you. It seems like it is going from bad to worse.
As opposed to Zoom and other video chat and screen sharing platforms, we don’t store data and we don’t ask for any of your information. Since there is no software to download, we don’t need to. We don’t need your email address and we don’t need you to login with your Facebook or Google account. This is a core element of how Surfly was built and it won’t change. Your data is your own, and we shouldn’t need access to it so that you can co-browse, video chat or collaborate. And since a Surfly session simply takes place in the confines of a browser window, data from the rest of your screen or computer simply isn’t accessible, which isn’t the case in the screen sharing sessions that take place in other tools. If you want to distill all this down to one thought, it’s this: we don’t ask for your data, we don’t store your data, and we don’t want to see your data.
You know that store where you got that special pass and gave them all your personal details? What if it wasn’t the real store? What if it was just built to get your data?
KYC2, which stands for know your customer, is a term that has been most often applied to the financial services industry, and refers to the process a company goes through to make sure their customer is who they say they are. It’s why they ask you all those questions when you call in to verify you are who you say you are. And that’s a good thing: no one wants to be the victim of fraud. But the term has taken on a different meaning for us: know your company. You want to make sure that when you are looking for help or support online with a company you are a customer of, that the person you are talking to really represents that company. This is another big difference between Surfly and other collaboration and sharing tools: our clients can let their customer start a co-browsing session directly from their website. Click a button on the trusted website of the company you do business with, and a co-browsing and video chat session starts. When you are asked to go to another website to download 3rd party software and then are using that 3rd party software to video chat and screen share, do you really know who you are talking to? With Surfly, you always know.
The final thought
However you go forward, and whatever tools you use to connect, co-browse, and collaborate with your customers, and each other, keep in mind that privacy and security have never been more important. While we all rush to find solutions to help us in a world that has suddenly gone remote, remember that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Making the right choice now will pay big dividends in the future.