It’s a Zoom world, and we’re just living in it — but we may still be handing over our private data in the meantime. Use of the popular videoconferencing app Zoom has spiked as work has moved into people’s homes. According to the New York Times, the app saw 600,000 downloads in one day, and that was two weeks ago when COVID-induced lockdowns were just beginning to take effect. It’s no wonder the app has surged in popularity — it just works. Simply click on a link and have your meeting.
Some experts said Zoom’s new policy does clarify and tighten up previously vague language regarding user data. This change is something the U.K.-based digital rights group ProPrivacy applauded, but still urged caution.
“Zoom is complying with the laws, but it will share your data with Google where it is lawful to do so,” wrote Jo O’Reilly, digital privacy advocate for ProPrivacy. “It does go so far as to point out, though, that this is not a ‘sale’ of your data in the sense that most of us use the word ‘sale’, a clear attempt to shake off the controversy.”
“When they came under scrutiny, they went back and reworked and clarified the policy dramatically to ease user minds,” said Eve Maler, interim chief technology officer of the a digital identity company ForgeRock. “And they did a good job. But they should have known better.”
“Customers have gotten more savvy and cynical and privacy sensitive, and regulators have too. Enterprises have to understand that modern data privacy has changed,” Maler said. “We’ve seen enough of these executive ‘walks of shame,’ that they [Zoom] should have known that this would happen in this regulatory environment,”
Maler pointed to another dramatic instance of this exact pattern: Spotify in 2015. The music streaming app’s policy at the time allowed it to pretty much read a user’s entire phone. Users had inadvertently agreed to allow the app to view their Facebook posts, know their location, and see their contacts and photos. Spotify insisted there was a reasonable explanation, but CNN described the policy as “the opposite of private” and “creepy” and under the harsh glare of the media spotlight, the policy was amended.
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