Zoom is a video-conferencing application that was founded in 2011. It launched its first piece of software in 2013. It turned into a unicorn company in 2017, before completing its IPO in 2019. Yet, it only came into the limelight in 2020. That’s mainly because the services it’s offering are incredibly suitable for the current global COVID-19 situation. A host of people are allowed to join video calls, making it perfect for holding group meetings from the confines of everyone’s homes. It’s also an excellent tool for teachers to teach their students and for friends to catch up. What has been bothersome, however, is the endless stream of controversies that surround the service.
When did it all start?
Around the time April rolled along, people had pretty much gotten used to Zoom being the go-to tool to solve their group video conferencing woes. Its ease of use and overall efficiency was unmatched. But this is also when the term Zoom-bombing started being heard a lot. It refers to random people joining private meetings by exploiting a flaw. At its most basic, every Zoom call has a randomly generated ID number between 9 and 11 digits that users enter to get into a meeting. Many miscreants started randomly typing numbers in hopes of Zoom-bombing people, and it worked in several instances. Worse yet, they would use the opportunity to broadcast porn or gore. You now need to manually tweak the settings in order to ensure this does not happen.
Around the same time, it was also found that the Zoom app on iOS was sending device data to Facebook, another company notorious for its serious privacy lapses. To add to that was Zoom’s claim of all calls being end-to-end encrypted, but that statement turned out to be false. Embarrassingly enough, Zoom admitted that it was a misleading message, and has since stated that its calls are encrypted, rather than end-to-end encrypted. This simply means that the company itself can decrypt your calls. Plus, there are plenty of caveats in its regular encryption as well. And then there was the problem of an attendee-tracking feature on the application that lets meeting hosts track whether participants have their Zoom app in view on a PC or whether it’s in the background or minimized.
This was the time when people started increasingly getting concerned about the use of Zoom. Along with facing several lawsuits, Zoom was also scrutinized by major bodies like the FBI, which publicly warned schools about the default settings that cause Zoom-bombings. Moreover, several companies started ditching Zoom altogether to switch to other video conferencing apps to satisfy their needs.
Zoom’s China stance
An open platform like Zoom isn’t something that you’d expect to bow down to pressure from governments of other countries. But that’s exactly what Zoom did recently when it decided to deactivate the accounts of pro-democracy Chinese activists staying the US at the request of China. Not only is this is an example of how China is extending its extreme censorship into other countries, but it’s also damning on Zoom’s part to comply with the country’s directive.
All these controversies surrounding Zoom have meant great news for its competition. Many of them had also updated their services right away to cash in on the demand for safer video conferencing services. Among them was Microsoft Teams, which a lot of schools and offices are shifting to owing to its integration with other Microsoft services. Google’s Meet also introduced quick changes when the Zoom drama was unfolding, with an aim to grab migrating users.
What’s the future?
Despite all this, Zoom still enjoys a large user base that isn’t bothered by the security and privacy concerns surrounding the service. And the PR mechanism at the company is hard at work containing all the negative publicity that’s coming its way these past few months. Its stock price is again on its way up, and the future looks like it’s going to be pretty steady now. Unless of course, some new privacy and security concern comes along.