Zoom does an about-face on end-to-end encryption

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Zoom
Zoom will offer top-tier encryption to all users.
Photo: Allie Smith/Unsplash

Zoom promised on Wednesday to make end-to-end encryption an option for all users, not just paying ones.

This video conferencing app became incredibly popular during the COVID-19 epidemic. But it also drew criticism for weak security.

Zoom worked quickly to fix that, but again faced complaints when the company decided that end-to-end encryption would only be for paying customers. That’s a decision it changed today.

Zoom joins the rare club with E2EE

The company announced the change both on Twitter and its blog.

“We have identified a path forward that balances the legitimate right of all users to privacy and the safety of users on our platform,” said CEO Eric Yuan. “This will enable us to offer E2EE [end-to-end encryption] as an advanced add-on feature for all of our users around the globe — free and paid — while maintaining the ability to prevent and fight abuse on our platform.”

Yuan said this feature will go into beta testing in July. It will be an optional feature, and will require users to give additional information about themselves, like a phone number, in hopes of preventing this feature from being used for illegal purposes.

What’s so great about end-to-end encryption

E2EE is considered the “holy grail” privacy standard. Communication services that use it completely limit access to only the people on the call. No one — no even Zoom — will be able to listen in.

This feature is actually rare. Google Hangouts, Skype, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and other popular video-conferencing application don’t have it. An exception is Apple FaceTime.