Zoom is one of the many video conferencing tools to be booming as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
While there are plenty of providers offering a similar service, Zoom’s free tier still provides everything most people are looking for to maintain lines of communication while working from home.
Its feature set includes instant messaging, collaboration on virtual whiteboards and easy file sharing, making it more comprehensive than Skype and only truly rivalled by paid services (it’s important to note that some of these are free during the outbreak). It’s easy to see why the UK Government has chosen it to hold Cabinet meetings while in-person communication is off the radar.
However, according to research reported by Forbes, there are reasons why you should think twice before using it to communicate with friends or colleagues.
Are Zoom meetings private?
If Zoom using this data wasn’t bad enough, much of it even be controlled of the host of the call. Participants may be unaware that hosts have extra privileges when it comes to data from calls, with these options often buried in settings.
While Zoom meetings are end-to-end encrypted, you often only need to enter a meeting ID to join the call. This relies on each person who is invited to keep that information secure, or other people could potentially gain access to calls.
With many confidential conversations now having to take place via Zoom, this poses a serious security risk.
The fact that you can easily record and export calls directly from the Zoom program can be very useful, but the host has complete control over where these files might end up. While you probably trust who you’re calling enough to ensure your contributions won’t be plastered all over the internet, this is still a risk you need to be prepared for.
Zoom also gives hosts the option to turn on ” attention tracking“, which can tell them whether any attendees have clicked off the program for more than 30 seconds sharing a screen. While this may be effective in ensuring, it feels a bit intrusive.
The addition of video provides an extra layer of data that can be collected, meaning Zoom can learn more about you than even the likes of Google through its smart speakers.
Does Zoom send data to Facebook?
This is a big one. One of the aforementioned third parties that Zoom shares data with appears to be Facebook, and the company hasn’t done a good job of disclosing this. It has been confirmed that the Zoom iOS app in particular sends data to Facebook without users’ knowledge or consent, and it’s highly likely this has spread to other platforms.
The scary thing is that Facebook can get hold of this data whether you have an account with them or not, which feels like a betrayal of Zoom’s user base.
Millions of people boycotted Facebook in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, and many more continue to feel uneasy at providing the company with large swathes of their personal data.
The rapidly growth of Zoom is a relatively recent phenomenon, so it doesn’t have the same history of flouting privacy regulations as Facebook. In this time of crisis, people are understandably focusing on its immense value as a collaboration tool, but we shouldn’t turn a blind eye to some concerning privacy practices.