Zoom rectifies and will provide end-to-end encryption for free accounts

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Zoom rectifies and will provide end-to-end encryption for free accounts
Zoom rectifies and will provide end-to-end encryption for free accounts

The Zoom group video calling service has announced that it will offer true end-to-end (or point-to-point) encryption to all users, provided they meet certain conditions, starting in July.

Zoom’s sudden popularity has been unexpected; even for its own creators, who have had to react and make decisions for an audience that was not initially their own. Zoom was originally intended for businesses, but the coronavirus pandemic has caused many people to start using it to meet remotely.

In this context, one must understand some of the strange decisions made by Zoom’s management and its CEO, Eric Yuan; for example, when Zoom denied the best security to its free users so that they could be spied on.

Zoom in (again) with the encryption

In particular, Zoom introduced its new end-to-end encryption, which encrypts the call content for all participants; this way, neither Zoom nor an attacker could see our video calls. It is different from the encryption that Zoom already has, which allows the company to access the calls.

However, initially Zoom announced that only paid users could use this advanced security; users with free accounts could be spied on, and specifically Yuan mentioned the possibility of the FBI and police accessing video calls recorded with Zoom.

It sounds strange, but Zoom’s logic was that many people can use their app “for bad purposes” by specifically mentioning pedophiles and ‘trolls’; of course, that implied that paying users can be neither, something that has not gone down well in the community. It seemed that if you can’t afford the 13.99 euro a month subscription to Zoom (or simply don’t want to pay it), you are the worst thing in society.

Free encryption, for a price

So, for the umpteenth time, Zoom has had to rectify after receiving criticism from all over the Web, including privacy advocates. The plan now involves offering end-to-end encryption to all Zoom users, whether they are paying or not; but in the latter case, there are some conditions.

Since Zoom’s excuse was that it needed access to calls to go after its worst users, if we want to access end-to-end encryption we will now have to give out more personal data. The first time we want to activate it, the app will ask us to enter more information, such as our phone number (which we’ll have to verify with a text message).

Zoom App for iPhone
Zoom App for iPhone

Zoom believes that providing this information will make potentially abusive or criminal users think twice about sharing illegal material or ‘trolling’ for lectures from others. However, this will still depend largely on the function to report these behaviors.

Cleaning the mobile phone in times of the Coronavirus
Cleaning the mobile phone in times of the Coronavirus

The path taken by Zoom is the one technology companies usually take to avoid problems, and these steps are usually the most basic; one might wonder why it was not the first option, instead of insulting most of its user base.

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