Eric Yuan, the company’s CEO, alarmed privacy advocates on Wednesday saying that Zoom plans to exclude free calls from end-to-end encryption in order to leave open the possibility of working with law enforcement.
“Free users for sure, we don’t want to give [end-to-end encryption] because we also want to work with the FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for the wrong purpose, “Yuan said in a conference call with analysts.
Privacy and security experts say that encryption, which secures communication so that it can only be read by affected users, is particularly important at a time when video applications and other digital platforms are used for sensitive issues such as organizing demonstrations, discussing legal issues and consulting medical appointments.
“Basic security should not be a premium feature that is only available to wealthy individuals and large businesses,” said Evan Greer, deputy director of Fight for the Future, a digital rights defender who previously organized a campaign requiring Zoom to increase user security. “It’s just disgusting for the company to say that it will only keep your calls safe if you pay extra. “
Greer has also expressed concern that such comments play into ongoing attacks on encryption by agents such as Attorney General William Barr, who have called on companies such as Apple to provide doors stolen from encrypted devices for law enforcement purposes. They are also intervening as the United States is considering the EARN IT Act, proposed legislation that would hold companies accountable for content distributed on their platform, endangering encryption.
A spokesperson for Zoom said the company already offers basic encryption for users of all skill levels. He added that Zoom does not “proactively monitor meeting content.”
“We do not share information with law enforcement except in circumstances such as child sexual abuse,” he said. “We don’t have backdoors where anyone can enter meetings without being visible to others. None of this will change. “
The move could set a dangerous precedent for privacy, said Tim Wade, technical director of cybersecurity company Vectra.
“In an online world, encryption is essential for privacy, and privacy promotes security, freedom and fairness in our social fabric,” he said. “The protection of privacy behind a payment wall erodes fundamental freedoms and fairness.”
The encryption issues are just the latest in a long line of criticism that Zoom has faced as its popularity soared during coronavirus lockouts, as millions of people staying home after school and work turned to Zoom to connect.
Zoom previously falsely advertised itself as using end-to-end encryption and, once captured, confirmed in a blog post that end-to-end encryption was not possible on the platform.
Meanwhile, incidents of troll attacks against app users with insults and offensive imagery – known as Zoom bombing – have also increased. Zoom added security measures in response, but the problem persists.
During the call, Yuan also explained how the popularity of Zoom has increased in recent months. Zoom plans to generate up to $ 1.8 billion in revenue this fiscal year, according to Bloomberg analysts on the call, triples what it generated last year. Yuan said Zoom sees up to 300 million daily participants on the app, up from just 10 million in December.