COVID-19 Update

Zoom Battles Transparency Issues Amid Growing Popularity

Zoom is exploding in popularity due to the coronavirus, but the videoconferencing platform is making other headlines for the wrong reasons.

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Zoom’s popularity has skyrocketed as organizations, family and friends are using the video conferencing platform to communicate from their homes during COVID-19.

Now, the software is becoming a social networking app popular among younger generations and has been adopted as a desktop version of FaceTime as screenshots of dozens of people meeting up via Zoom have populated social media.

However, the platform’s newfound popularity during this global pandemic has also come with a fair amount of controversy.

The company was found to be sending user information to Facebook, but quickly changed that policy after a slew of headlines about that issue. There have also been a number of other issues with Zoom, including cybersecurity and transparency.

Most recently, it was reported by The Intercept that Zoom video calls are not end-to-end encrypted, despite the company claiming they are, and Motherboard reported that Zoom is leaking email addresses and photos.

According to Tech Crunch, here are some other headlines Zoom had to clean up in the last year:

  • Apple was forced to step into secure millions of Macs after a security researcher found Zoom failed to disclose that it installed a secret web server on users’ Macs, which Zoom failed to remove when the client was uninstalled. The researcher, Jonathan Leitschuh, said the web server meant any malicious website could activate Mac webcam with Zoom installed without the user’s permission. The researcher declined a bug bounty payout because Zoom wanted Leitschuh to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which would have prevented him from disclosing details of the bug.
  • Zoom came under fire again for its “attendee tracking” feature, which, when enabled, lets a host check if participants are clicking away from the main Zoom window during a call.
  • A security researcher found that the Zoom uses a “shady” technique to install its Mac app without user interaction. “The same tricks that are being used by macOS malware,” the researcher said.
  • On the bright side and to some users’ relief, we reported that it is in fact possible to join a Zoom video call without having to download or use the app. But Zoom’s “dark patterns” doesn’t make it easy to start a video call using just your browser.
  • Zoom has faced questions over its lack of transparency on law enforcement requests it receives. Access Now, a privacy and rights group, called on Zoom to release the number of requests it receives, just as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and many more tech giants report on a semi-annual basis.
  • Then there’s Zoombombing, where trolls take advantage of open or unprotected meetings and poor default settings to take over screen-sharing and broadcast porn or other explicit material. The FBI this week warned users to adjust their settings to avoid trolls hijacking video calls.
  • And Zoom tightened its privacy policy this week after it was criticized for allowing Zoom to collect information about users’ meetings — like videos, transcripts and shared notes — for advertising.

Of course, now isn’t the time to change your videoconferencing vendor, and the company has largely been quick to react and fix some of these issues, specifically the Facebook data-sharing concern.

Zoom remains a popular platform because it’s easy to use, reliable and many are just now discovering how to entertain themselves with virtual backgrounds.

Related: Businesses are Using Lots of Video Streaming These Days — And It’s Working

However, as Tech Crunch notes, Zoom has an incredibly responsibility to best serve its users with as much transparency as possible.

CoronaVirus Update