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Zoom might not be as safe as you think!

Zoom has become an essential tool during lockdown, but there are risks.

woman in glasses and wearing a black blazer and a white top using a laptop while on a phone call

Friday, 29 May, 2020

Zooming to the top.

Somehow Zoom has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to surpass Skype as the go to video chat software.

So what separates it from Skype and other competitors? Well while many providers offer similar services and features, Zoom does it for free.

Zoom features include instant messaging, collaborative virtual whiteboards and file sharing. This makes it superior to Skype with only paid services offering such an array of features.

It’s been enthusiastically adopted by businesses and even governments to keep function remotely. It’s also been embraced by far flung families looking to remain connected through calls and quizzes.

However, it’s not the perfect solution it purports to be. Forbes researchers have uncovered some reasons to reconsider using Zoom for business or sensitive purposes.

I think we’re alone now?

With access to instant messaging logs, file sharing logs and audio and video during calls, Zoom is ripe for exploiting. However it’s Zoom’s Terms and Conditions which are cause for concern.

Zoom’s privacy policy states that it collects and shares your data with third parties. But don’t worry, the company also says they’re “committed to protecting your privacy”.

Who’s in control here?

On top of these ambiguous data collection practices there are issues with user privileges too. Many of us might not be aware that call ‘hosts’ have extra ‘data privileges’.

Zoom meetings are encrypted but hosts can record and export calls. They also control who has access to the calls. If someone has malicious intentions, or have been hacked then there are huge privacy risks.

This is especially problematic in encounters where the call host isn’t known or trusted (i.e. online dating). For couples in long distance relationships or those trying ‘virtual Hinge dates’, more intimate video calls could be at risk.

Many people are now working remotely, which generally includes business as usual. But for some it could include pitching sensitive business information to potential clients or investors.

Where does Zoom send my data?

Their terms don’t really specify, which is very worrying. One of the third parties that Zoom shares data with is Facebook, though Zoom has been evasive about disclosing this.

It was recently confirmed that the Zoom iOS app sends data to Facebook without users’ knowledge or even consent! If this is the case, what stops Zoom from sharing data without knowledge on other platforms?

Facebook have already proven themselves to treat data carelessly and even sell it to buyers with nefarious purposes (Cambridge Analytica). So this is a very concerning breach of consumer trust which could be indicative of lax security across the board.

Big Brother is watching.

A rather creepy legitimate Zoom privacy breach is the option for hosts to enable ‘attention tracking’. This feature tells hosts if any of the attendees have left the program for more than 30 seconds.

This might be good news for teachers trying to wrangle a class remotely. But when it comes to micromanaging bosses, it will only add to workplace stress during an already stressful time.

 

So think twice before using Zoom for a call about particularly sensitive information – or even any calls at all. Is convenience worth your security?

Natalie Dunning author picture

By:

Natalie Dunning is a freelance writer and Media Psychology researcher based in Manchester.

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