#21: Zoom - The Creepy Web App?

What you should know

Hi,

A few hours later than usual, here’s a short post on the darker side of the world’s favourite video conferencing app - Zoom.

Reading time: 2 minute

Zoom, the once little known video conferencing app, has exploded in popularity thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. It has been used for everything from school sing-alongs to blind dates and even UK Cabinet meetings. Like Hoover, Xerox and Frisbee, Zoom is now a brand name so famous, it has also become its own eponym.

It’s stable, easy-to-use and calls up to 40 minutes long, are free.

So what’s the catch?

Well, up until a few days ago, Zoom engaged in a lot of creepy behaviour.

Under immense public pressure however, the company is showing signs it’s getting its act together.

Here are three creepy examples:

  1. Does Zoom sell personal data?

    Until the 1st April, Zoom’s privacy policy answered this question with the dubious “Depends what you mean by ‘sell.’” It then went on to say; "It does share personal data with third parties for those companies’ ‘business purposes.’” 

    The company are currently being sued in the U.S for allegedly giving users' personal data to Facebook without consent.

    Zoom has rightly taken a lot of flack for it’s privacy policy and as a result, in recent days, updated it’s privacy policy to state; "Whether you are a business or a school or an individual user, we do not sell your data.

  2. End-to-end encryption

    Put simply, end-to end encryption is a system of communication that prevents eavesdropping.

    In recent days, the company has been forced to apologise over misleading claims that it offers “end-to-end encryption for all meetings”. 

    In a recent post, Zoom’s founder Eric Yuan said; “We recognise that we have fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations...“For that, I am deeply sorry.”

  3. Monitoring attendees behaviour

    Prior to the the 1st April, the host of a Zoom call could monitor the activities of attendees while screen-sharing.

    Due to public pressure, they have now removed this disconcerting feature.

    However, it remains to be seen, whether this policy change includes the feature allowing administrators to join any call at any time within their organisation’s Zoom account, without consent or warning?

Privacy is not an individual problem

Zoom was built for large institutions with their own IT support, not for stag parties and family reunions. As such, large enterprises can easily protect themselves from Zoom’s privacy breaches. The rest of us, however, cannot.

With persistent online privacy incursions proving a collective threat, not an individual one, we we must look to the power of collective action to effect change and protect ourselves from further attacks on our privacy. As this episode shows, through collective action, we can compel powerful companies to change their behaviour, and in the process, ensure our digital future serves society better.

Here’s hoping Zoom’s recent changes prove a powerful example of this.


That’s all until next week.

Mind yourselves!

Scott