Sun. Jan 23rd, 2022

The video call program Zoom has made headlines this week as learned users continue to expose the program’s less-than-honest privacy policy. Zoom had claimed to secure users’ meetings with end-to-end encryption, which turned out to be a stretched version of the truth. This information has revealed that Zoom could have intentions of mining users’ messages for the purpose of improved ad targeting. 

In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, universities across the country turned to alternative methods of teaching to maximize the safety of all. Zoom has emerged as the clear choice for many institutions and businesses, and the program has seen its traffic spike from 10-million users in December to 200-million users today. The program offers convenient methods of conference calling that suit businesses and educators alike.

Zoom’s methods of encryption allow for an array of abilities to be wielded by the company, including access to the contents of our video calls. The encryption and security are not as advanced as Apple’s privacy policy used with FaceTime, but Apple has pioneered many of the leading end-to-end encryption methods through the last decade. 

As of this time, the only feature on Zoom that is 100% end-to-end encrypted is the program’s direct messaging feature, which can be used to send texts from one member of a meeting to any number of desired recipients, completely private from the rest of those on the call. 

In addition to this technical ability of accessing the contents of our video calls, Zoom would also be obliged to turn over video contents to government forces if it were a matter of legal requests. 

Companies such as Facebook and Google release transparency reports disclosing any instances in which governments file requests for information, and whether or not the companies comply with these requests. Zoom has not yet released a report on issues such as these.

It is also worth mentioning that Zoom’s dishonest policy practices theoretically harm other video call services. If one popular company claims to feature the same privacy services as another company when in reality that is false, that company could be profiting off of false claims. 

West Chester University students have received explicit direction from the school not to record Zoom lectures, an act that can be seen as a federal offense. This potentially opens to doors to all sorts of consideration around the presumptive cost of online education, and how it pales against a tuition-based, in-class traditional approach. 

In response to the questions asked by thousands this week, Zoom has stated that they never mine or sell user data of any kind and that Zoom employees are completely unable to access the contents of video calls through decryption. 

As was previously stated, Zoom is seeing a major spike in traffic brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak and is dealing with new problems as they arise. It is not easy for a company to accommodate such a surge in activity, yet it is time that Zoom revises its misleading privacy policy and continues forward with transparency.

 

CJ Fudala is a fourth-year English major at West Chester University. cf865983@wcupa.edu

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