The New italki tool

Hello everyone students and teachers,

I have a couple of problems with the new italki classroom.

1. When I read an article I cannot see the student at the same time as I could on skype.

2. I cannot send a file to the student or share screen as I can on skype.

Does anyone agree with me?

Maybe I am missing something?

Apr 29, 2018 11:32 AM
Comments · 18

I just realised that the italki.classroom has had access to my mic and camera for 386 hours non-stop.

Apparently, by entering it ONCE a few days ago -- the permission I gave to the site lasted ever since. 

I took printscreens and sent them to support to get clarification on how to ensure that access to my mic is disabled when I'm not in sessions. 

I've been talking to students about this tool and everyone understands that, if the technology doesn't exist now, it will in a few years -- and no one wants to have their voice, face, eyes, emotions, etc, etc being analyzed or their data being taken. I am afraid students will move to a platform that respects their privacy more totally.  I should share some insightful + informative posts on LinkedIn (from MIT,, etc) about the trillions of dollars being invested in AI and the lucrative possible partnerships between platforms with large audiences, and the AI companies that are hungry for that rich personal data e.g. humans together having conversations.  That is delicious data that many companies would love to have; it's good 'product' that governments and advertisers will pay big bucks to have, on as many individuals as possible. 

Did anyone see how refugees in UN camps have to submit to retinal scans to identify themselves and then get access their cryptocurrrency 'dollars' by which they can buy food, water and necessities?  They are REQUIRED to give up sensitive biometric data for the privilege of living.

Sorry to go off topic ... a cascade of issues related to technology, privacy, user data, obscure terms and conditions, companies leveraging clout to force users to 'consent' to data collection ...


April 29, 2018

No one has to use the italki classroom -- that is what I was told.

I turned down some package and session requests for this tool (new students and current students) and told them if they want to use Skype, I would carry on. Italki did email me back with some information about how the tool was built and that it's just an alternative to Skype and that they didn't have the resources to record or do anything else.

Russia, though, now is also apparently making internet access difficult so perhaps this is why my Russian students are also only being given the italki classroom option.  Both students and I agree that we want to stay with Skype, and that's what we are doing. 

My concern is the slippery slope down the path from a benign tool to something that can be partnered with emerging technology in two or three years to gather data by a company registered in a country that doesn't recognize human rights. This is a race to the bottom for the rights of individuals. The rate of change in AI is moving fast and Silicon Valley has been demonstrably dishonest over the last couple of years.  I like italki a lot -- no reason at all to not trust them over the years / they have built trust like crazy and have been amazing to me -- buuut the landscape is constantly changing -- user data is just valuable and the means to get it are becoming more and more invasive, and there is a lot of investment looking for opportunities to experiment on groups of people -- and the scale of it makes it impersonal, but that doesn't mean it's acceptable. I already get ads served to me that are WAY too cognizant of what I read, what I think, what I worry about, where I go, my health problems, etc.  It's really disgusting and scary.  I don't want more harvesting of my personal data by strangers, whether it's Microsoft, italki, Amazon, facebook, any of them. 

April 29, 2018

I really don't understand why Italki implements new features without doing any user research beforehand. Maybe they think beta testing is the same thing as user acceptance testing ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Students and teachers alike have a number of excellent reasons to use the tools that work for them. I would never use a video/voice chat tool provided by Italki because all they say about "privacy" is that they don't have "access to" the video or audio. That's not the same thing as providing end-to-end encryption (Skype and Google Hangouts are encrypted, as long as you're connecting to a similar client), which guarantees that no one can eavesdrop on your data. 

Google and Skype are both ... problematic in mainland China, perhaps that's what's behind this.

As a student I want the most educational value for my dollar, and if the teacher can't do basic things like send a file or share her screen, it reduces the value of the instruction. italki already takes a significant cut of the teacher's fee, there's no financial advantage to anyone for switching to their Classroom, as far as I can tell. (There is no "benefits for teachers" section on the announcement page, despite what it says under "Optional or Required?")

Teachers can still communicate with students via online Messages, or the Message box on the right of the Lessons page. Just exchange Skype/Google IDs through those channels, and also let each other know why you don't want to use the Classroom tool. The student can still mark the lesson complete, even if it wasn't conducted on an Italki Classroom (I certainly hope that's true).

April 29, 2018
Well that is tiresome. Maybe you can write to them and complain? I don't like dictatorships much.
April 29, 2018
I have a class scheduled for next week that's supposed to be on Italki classroom. I have no idea of what to expect, but I already gave the teacher my Skype in case we have any kind of problem
April 29, 2018
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