Zoom Communications' CEO and founder, Eric Yuan, raised more than a few eyebrows with his comments during a conference call on 2 June 2020 when he said that the free subscription version of the service will not offer the best encryption and this was because they wanted to work with law enforcement agencies in the USA. Yuan added that Zoom's end-to-end encryption would only be available for paying customers.
With the various nationwide lockdowns enforced by different countries around the world, video conferencing has become very popular. Not only are services like Microsoft Teams being used for business and work meetings, but they are also being used for social events such as children's parties, funerals, and friends getting together. As such, this means many more people are using the services and are rightfully concerned about their privacy when using video conferencing services.
“Free users, for sure, we don’t want to give that because we also want to work together with the FBI, with local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for the bad purpose,” said Yuan.
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Zoom privacy concerns
With its growth in popularity which has been mirrored by a surge in its share price, Zoom has also attracted an increasing number of people regarding privacy. What started possibly as possibly most new users not being familiar with some of the service's security settings has grown into valid concerns about encryption and privacy.
Yuan's comments haven't endeared the company to many of its users, paying and non-paying.
Despite him stating that they will only work with law enforcement agencies when it comes to their free subscription tier, the question is what stops Zoom from cooperating with law enforcement even for paying customers?
This is partly what has led to several users taking to social media to express their disgruntlement and announce they have canceled their subscriptions.
Zoom wants to verify the identity of every user
This sentiment is further entrenched once you take into consideration what Yuan further said, i.e. with free users they only have their e-mail addresses, and for him and the company, that is not enough to verify a person's identity. With paying users, Zoom also has the payment details, whether it be a card or PayPal details which can assist them in identifying the real identity of a user.
That Zoom is insisting on knowing the identity of every user that subscribes to their service is a privacy red flag considering that governments around the world use the service for confidential meetings as well as businesses and individuals.
"Zoom does not proactively monitor meeting content, and we do not share information with law enforcement except in circumstances like child sex abuse. We do not have backdoors where participants can enter meetings without being visible to others. None of this will change," reads a statement by Zoom. Zoom’s end-to-end encryption plan balances the privacy of its users with the safety of vulnerable groups, including children and potential victims of hate crimes. We plan to provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity, thereby limiting harm to these vulnerable groups. Free users sign up with an email address, which does not provide enough information to verify identity," read a statement by Zoom seeking to clarify Yuang's comments.Share this via: