Zoom CEO Vows To Improve Privacy, Cybersecurity Issues After User Criticisms
After experiencing an unprecedented growth in users over the course of a month, the video conferencing app is hoping to address complaints of “Zoombombing” and improper data collection.
- By Haley Samsel
- Apr 03, 2020
In response to rapid-fire criticisms from users and cybersecurity experts over the ability of internet trolls to “Zoombomb” meeting rooms, video conferencing app Zoom has committed to shifting the focus of its entire engineering team to addressing security and privacy issues.
Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan wrote in a Wednesday letter to customers that the company, like the entire world population, was unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic and the society-wide shutdowns that have caused millions to use the conferencing software to connect with coworkers and, in the case of schools, receive instruction in a virtual classroom.
The maximum number of daily meeting participants as of December last year was about 10 million, Yuan wrote. Compare that with this March, when the platform counted 200 million daily meeting participants using the software to connect from around the globe. The intense growth has caused the company to hit some road bumps, which Yuan acknowledged in the letter.
“We recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations,” Yuan said. “For that, I am deeply sorry, and I want to share what we are doing about it.”
Zoom was built primarily for business and enterprise customers who have IT teams dedicated to security, including government agencies, universities, telecommunications providers and more. Most of those customers were pleased with their user experience, according to Yuan.
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“However, we did not design the product with the foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home,” Yuan said. “We now have a much broader set of users who are utilizing our product in a myriad of unexpected ways, presenting us with challenges we did not anticipate when the platform was conceived.”
Many of those users are unfamiliar with the dangers of sharing public links to Zoom conference rooms, not setting password protection for a meeting room, or how to turn off screen sharing for people who join a meeting room. These oversights have allowed trolls to “Zoombomb” meeting rooms, shouting profanities, showing poronographic imagery or using hate speech, according to a FBI warning.
Now, Zoom has instructed all of its engineering teams to enact a “feature freeze,” meaning that the company will not work on any new product or feature launches and instead focus on fixing existing issues. Training sessions and tutorials for users are available, and the platform offers specific guides for educators looking to use Zoom for virtual classrooms.
Zoom is also committing to a 90-day plan in which the company will undergo a third-party expert review of its security practices, prepare a “transparency report” detailing information related to data collection, and enhance its bug bounty program for cybersecurity researchers to submit issues they have discovered with the platform. Penetration tests of the system will be conducted to further identify potential weaknesses in Zoom’s infrastructure, Yuan wrote.
“Transparency has always been a core part of our culture,” Yuan wrote. “I am committed to being open and honest with you about areas where we are strengthening our platform and areas where users can take steps of their own to best use and protect themselves on the platform.”