Now that we're all stuck at home thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, video calls have gone from a novelty to a necessity. Zoom, the popular videoconferencing service, seems to be doing better than most and has quickly become one of, if not the most, popular option going.
But should it be?
Zoom's recent popularity has also shone a spotlight on the company's security protections and privacy promises. Just today, The Intercept reported that Zoom video calls are not end-to-end encrypted, despite the company's claims that they are.
And Motherboard reports that Zoom is leaking the email addresses of "at least a few thousand" people because personal addresses are treated as if they belong to the same company.
It's the latest examples of the company having to spend the last year mopping up after a barrage of headlines examining the company's practices and misleading marketing. To wit:
There are many more privacy-focused alternatives to Zoom. Motherboard noted several options, but they all have their pitfalls. FaceTime and WhatsApp are end-to-end encrypted, but FaceTime works only on Apple devices and WhatsApp is limited to just four video callers at a time. A lesser known video calling platform, Jitsi, is not end-to-end encrypted but it's open source - so you can look at the code to make sure there are no backdoors - and it works across all devices and browsers. You can run Jitsi on a server you control for greater privacy.
In fairness, Zoom is not inherently bad and there are many reasons why Zoom is so popular. It's easy to use, reliable and for the vast majority it's incredibly convenient.
But Zoom's misleading claims give users a false sense of security and privacy. Whether it's hosting a virtual happy hour or a yoga class, or using Zoom for therapy or government cabinet meetings, everyone deserves privacy.
Now more than ever Zoom has a responsibility to its users. For now, Zoom at your own risk.