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Using Zoom on a Mac? It may be secretly recording your audio

Over the course of the pandemic, Zoom has gone from an occasionally used video calling app to an essential tool for workers all over the world. Yet according to a number of reports, a Zoom bug may be recording Mac users’ audio without their knowledge.

As reported by The Register, the issue first reared its head in late 2021, when Mac users began noticing that Zoom was recording their microphone audio, even when the app was simply open in the background and not actively conducting a call.

A Zoom meeting being conducted on a Mac laptop.

Users were able to surmise this thanks to an update in MacOS Monterey that added a green or orange dot to the Mac menu bar whenever an app was accessing your camera or microphone, respectively. Users noticed that the orange dot was frequently appearing when Zoom was open, regardless of whether they were on a call or not.

At the time, Zoom said it had issued a fix for the problem. However, it appears the issue has persisted right up to this week. For instance, developer Felix Krause noted the issue on Twitter, while another explained that the bug was still occurring despite the latest Zoom update.

I can’t believe @Zoom is still pulling off stuff like this: The Zoom Mac app listens to the microphone even when not in any meetings. No way I’ll ever install their app.

— Felix Krause (@KrauseFx) February 9, 2022

Seeing as the bug is apparently still active in the latest version of Zoom, the onus is on the app’s developer to issue a fix that properly solves the problem. In the meantime, it is probably a good idea to only have Zoom open when you absolutely need it — when you are about to enter a call, for example — and to close it immediately afterward. That means pressing Command+Q or clicking > Quit Zoom in your menu bar, rather than just closing the app’s main window, as doing the latter will still keep the app itself open.

Interestingly, we were not able to replicate the issue on a Mac Mini using a third-party webcam, suggesting the bug is not currently affecting all Zoom users based on MacOS. However, it is a good idea to take precautions in any case, such as using a webcam with a built-in privacy cover.

It’s not the first time Zoom has been accused of privacy violations. In August 2021 it settled a lawsuit for $85 million over a number of issues, while its privacy policy has come under fire in the past. Luckily, there are numerous ways to increase your Zoom privacy and security without too much hassle.

Since publishing this article, Zoom contacted us with the following response:

“The Zoom client for macOS 5.9.3, released on January 25, 2022, fixed a bug involving the failure to properly terminate the microphone use post-meeting. Zoom has determined that this bug did not result in audio data being transmitted back to Zoom’s platform. As always, we recommend users make sure their Zoom client is updated to the latest version.”

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