For San Jose, Calif.-based Zoom, the current health crisis should have been a major opportunity to expand its reach. Millions of workers sent home to work remotely, and an entirely new audience for an app that is easy to use and, through its free plan, a way into new enterprises and new industries. The health crisis has proven difficult for the app that is now under scrutiny on both sides of the Atlantic.
Indeed, scrutiny is an understatement. Zoom now is the subject of numerous investigations into breaches of privacy, claims that it had been sending user data to Facebook and, of course, "Zoom bombing", a practice whereby uninvited guests interrupt conference calls with, in some cases, unwanted comments and even pornography. In fact, it is so bad that Google, earlier this month, banned Zoom video conferencing application from its employees’ laptops, citing security concerns. “Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees,” Google spokesman Jose Castaneda in a widely reported statement.
Zoom Replies To Privacy Concerns
In response to the numerous privacy claims made against it, Zoom CEO Eric S. Yuan launched a 90-Day security plan to address all the issues and stopped development of all other areas of the platform until all the concerns were addressed.
This week, in the second "Ask Eric Anything" webinar, Yuan was joined by Zoom CPO (Chief Privacy Officer) Oded Gal, Zoom CTO Brendan Ittelson, and new security adviser Alex Stamos to discuss the progress that has been made in the two weeks since the start of the plan. The progress seems impressive and will continue over the coming weeks.
In the past week alone, it has introduced the following.
New Security icon in the meeting controls: The newly released Security icon in the toolbar provides Zoom Meetings hosts and co-hosts with one-click access to several existing Zoom security features, including Lock Meeting and Enable the Waiting Room. Changes to Zoom’s default settings: They’ve made changes to Zoom’s default meeting settings to improve security before a meeting starts.
Enhanced meeting password complexity: Account owners and admins can now configure minimum meeting password requirements to include numbers, letters, and special characters, or allow only numeric passwords. Free Basic account users will now use alphanumeric passwords by default instead of numeric passwords.
One other thingthatis worth noting and which has been a major issue for enterprisesthat use Zoom and other data heavy applicationsis that starting April 18, account admins will have the ability to choose whether or not their data is routed through specific data center regions, giving users more control of their interactions with Zoom’s global network.
Related Article: Zoom Lawsuit Brings Video Conferencing Security Into the Spotlight
Microsoft Seizes Opportunity
And guess who stepped up to the mark? Microsoft did, of course, which has used any and all occasions in the past to promote its collaboration app Teams, which sits at the heart of Microsoft 365.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity, it dealt a new blow to Zoom by publishing a blog promoting the security and privacy credentials of its rival video conferencing service in Teams.
Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365 outlined what it is doing with Teams, demonstrated exactly what the concerns of enterprise users are when it comes to using conferencing apps. In fact, the list of privacy controls that he touts really underlines what and why users are currently concerned about Zoom.
“Now more than ever, people need to know that their virtual conversations are private and secure,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365. Instead, he wrote, Microsoft has committed to:
- Never use Teams data to serve ads.
- Track participant attention or multi-tasking in Teams meetings.
- Keep your data after the termination or expiration of your subscription.
- Take strong measures to ensure access to your data is restricted and carefully define requirements for responding to government requests for data.
- Offer regular transparency reports on the Transparency Hub
Spataro concluded with, “Our approach to privacy is grounded in our commitment to giving you transparency over the collection, use, and distribution of your data.”
Keep in mind here that Zoom is a serious competitor in the video conferencing space to Microsoft. During 2020 already, the company has added 2.2 million new monthly users, outstripping the entire 2019 new user base of 1.19 million and despite everything is growing rapidly.