At Zoom, New Privacy and Security Problems Keep Emerging
What Zoom users need to know, and how to stay safer while using the teleconferencing service
Update: Zoom says it will take strong steps to address privacy and security issues, such as those described in this article. Among other changes detailed in a long blog post, the company says it is freezing the development of new features to focus on fixing existing problems, removing the controversial attention tracker feature, and soliciting in-depth reviews by outside experts and users. Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology policy for Consumer Reports, says, "This is impressive. It's refreshing to see a Silicon Valley company admit mistakes and make meaningful changes so quickly." This article was originally published on April 1, 2020.
Zoom, the widely used teleconferencing service, has been receiving a lot of scrutiny for the way it handles the digital privacy and security of its users. A flurry of new revelations in recent days could make some consumers second-guess whether they want to use the platform at all.
The company reacted quickly to those issues, but bad privacy news has continued to mount, with Zoom users filing a class-action lawsuit in California concerned about the Facebook sharing, the New York state attorney general looking into alleged security lapses, and several researchers reporting software vulnerabilities that could put consumer information at risk.
“People should be cognizant of the privacy and security threats when using these teleconferencing services,” says Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology policy at Consumer Reports. “This is uncharted territory for a lot of us who are suddenly very dependent on these platforms, and we’re not conditioned to think about the risks and potential misuses.”
How to Use Zoom More Safely
If you want or need to continue using Zoom, you can take a few steps to enhance your privacy.
The most basic precaution is to assume that anything you say or do in a Zoom meeting could be recorded by the meeting host and possibly other participants. Those recordings can then be shared with third parties who weren’t in the original meeting.
If you’re the host, you should turn on the option that notifies participants that you intend to record the meeting and ask for their consent.
To prevent “Zoombombing,” the unauthorized takeover of a Zoom meeting by pranksters, turn on password protection in every meeting and set screen sharing to Host Only. Don’t share meeting links, and ask participants not to share them, either.
If you’re in a meeting at home, pay attention to your surroundings. Users who don’t want clients and coworkers to see the books on a shelf or the dirty dishes in the sink can use a photo from their hard drive as a background; the feature works well.
And if you don’t want to receive targeted ads from Zoom after going to zoom.us, you can click the Cookie Preferences link at the bottom of any page on the site and adjust the slider to Required Cookies.