Brave’s non-tracking, browser-based video conferencing tool is out of beta

Brave, the startup behind the eponymous non-tracking browser, has launched a non-tracking video conferencing add-on out of beta — letting all users make and receive video calls straight from their browser.

The tool, called Brave Talk, has been in beta testing since May last year. And Brave told us it’s had some 14,000 daily active users over this period — aka, earlier adopters and developers tapping in via Brave’s test version.

Now it’s been made open access — with Brave making a pitch to internet users of “privacy-focused” video conferencing.

“Many other video conferencing providers, including Zoom, monitor calls, metadata, and images, and the records of that data can be sold or shared without user consent,” it writes in a blog post announcing the wider launch.

“Brave Talk users can enable multiple layers of encryption on calls, so an eavesdropper cannot listen in on users’ calls, and our servers don’t save metadata, so calls, images, and activities are never recorded or shared without user consent,” it adds.

The video calling software is a subscription offering costing $7 per month for premium features (like group calls and call recording) — but basic one-to-one calls are free and unlimited. (NB: Brave’s Android and iOS apps only currently offer Brave Talk Premium but will have the free version too “in the coming weeks”).

Users initiating a video call must do so from within the Brave browser; however, recipients need only be using any “modern browser” (so basically Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, Opera etc.) to participate in a video chat.

While Brave is touting its non-tracking credentials as a differentiating plus for the video conferencing software versus mainstream players like Zoom, it’s worth noting that Brave Talk does not (yet) have end-to-end encryption rolled out.

Brave says it’s using the Jitsi as a Service open source video meeting platform from 8×8 — which relies on WebRTC open source technology to enable developers to embed HD video directly into the browser.

On encryption it says users can enable different layers in the settings. It describes the current strongest level of encryption available in both free and premium versions of Brave Talk as “Video Bridge Encryption”.

“This setting ensures that the video and audio streams are encrypted using keys generated by the participants, which prevents eavesdropping on the Video Bridge Server,” said co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich. “Video Bridge Encryption can be enabled under ‘Security Options’.”

“Because we find the phrase ‘end to end encryption’ to be confusing and overloaded, Brave Talk refers to the setting as “Video Bridge Encryption,” he also told us, adding: “End to end encrypted calls are just one dimension of privacy and security when participating in video calls. Even when using encryption, most of the ‘Big Tech’ video tools actively collect and store data about your call: Who the participants were, when the call took place and for how long, and a host of other information.

“The anonymous credential system employed by Brave Talk ensures that we don’t know who users are and who they are talking to, and we can’t link them across sessions. Brave Talk is a privacy-by-default tool that does not track users.”

Pushed for more clarity on the difference between Video Bridge Encryption (VBE) and E2EE, he also told TechCrunch: “The reason that we refer to it as ‘Video Bridge Encryption’ and not ‘End to End Encryption’ is that, while VBE does ensure that audio and video remain encrypted from Brave, 8×8, and any other passive eavesdroppers, we are still working with 8×8 on a way to make this more robust against active attackers by automatically authenticating meeting participants.

“When that work is complete, we will feel comfortable introducing it as full end to end encryption, and it will provide significant advantages over platforms like Zoom, which require participants to read a security code out loud to confirm end to end encryption is working.”

Internet users wanting to kick the tyres of Brave Talk — which was previously called Brave Together — will first need to download the Brave browser in order to initiate a call. Receiving calls doesn’t require using Brave, as mentioned earlier.

Per Eich, Brave recently passed 36 million monthly active users across its suite of anti-tracking products — which also includes a search engine and a Firewall+VPN.