Amid booming popularity, Zoom commits to improved security and privacy

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Zoom promises to work harder to protect user privacy.
Millions have turned to the Zoom video-conferencing service, but it’s also facing criticism for security lapses.
Photo: Zoom

Zoom had over 200 million daily meeting participants in March, about 20x the average, as people isolate themselves during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this video conferencing service faces criticism for a lack of security. That’s why Zoom CEO Eric Yuan on Thursday stopped all work on adding new features to its software to instead focus on fixing problems with privacy and public trust.

A Zoom privacy mea culpa

“We recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry,” said Yuan in a blog post.

The head of Zoom went on to say that any violations of user privacy were unintentional. “We do not sell our users’ data, we have never sold user data in the past, and have no intention of selling users’ data going forward,” promised Yuan. The company recently made a massive update to its privacy policy.

And the CEO is doing more than making promises. He announced that he’s “enacting a feature freeze, effectively immediately, and shifting all our engineering resources to focus on our biggest trust, safety, and privacy issues.”

Zoom’s privacy problems

Last week, Zoom had to remove controversial code from its iOS app that shared user data to Facebook — even when those users didn’t have a Facebook account.

And before that, the company didn’t have a good history of protecting user privacy. Last year, it was caught installing a web server on Macs in order to circumvent Safari’s built-in security and privacy tools. Apple eventually fixed this with an automatic security update.

People around the world turn to this video conferencing service to keep in touch with work, family and friends as they shelter in place from the COVID-19 outbreak. This lead to the dramatic increase in daily users month, and its stock price has nearly doubled since before the crisis. But a lack of trust in the company isn’t helping it.