Zoom Stated That Free Users Will Not Be Provided End-to-End Encryption for Video Conversations

We all know that Zoom has become one of the most popular video calling service providers during the coronavirus lockdowns. While the coronavirus pandemic has impacted numerous companies badly, video calling applications have experienced an increased number of users. During the past few months, Zoom has become a significant video calling app.

Zoom has not gained all of this increased attention during the lockdowns without its fair share of scrutiny. Users have been criticizing Zoom for its security and privacy practices. However, Zoom has now confirmed that the company will not provide end-to-end encryption to free users for video conversations. According to a report published during the last week, Zoom was planning to add stronger encryption to video conversations for paid subscribers only. Now, Eric Yuan, Zoom CEO confirmed this report today that paid customers will get stronger encryption for video calls.

Alex Stamos, a security consultant at Zoom is explaining the company’s current position. In simple words, the company is currently making efforts to stop abuse across Zoom’s platform and wants to be able to prevent harm from individuals who use the Zoom video calling app for bad purposes. Zoom CEO, Yuan stated that the company wants to be able to operate it together with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and local law enforcement. Yuan’s statement was considered controversial, however, Stamos explained that his statement was unclear. Stamos went on to further explain the decision made by the company and stated that Zoom is currently facing a ‘challenging balancing act’ of trying to enhance security and privacy. The company is also trying to reduce the human effect of the abuse of Zoom’s product.

Now, the Trust and Safety team of Zoom is able to enter a meeting visibly. Zoom’s Trust and Safety team can also report a meeting if they find a particular meeting abusive. However, end-to-end encryption would prevent the company employees from entering a meeting and report if the meeting is abusive. Moreover, there will not be a backdoor to allow it because it will defeat the whole purpose of end-to-end encryption.

Alex Stamos also noted that a significant proportion of meetings use tools and functions that are not compatible with E2E encryption. The current system of Zoom will provide end-to-end encryption to business as well as enterprise users. However, there is another significant distinction. If your organization is on a business plan but Zoom is not charging you any fee, the company will also provide you end-to-end encryption for video conversations. For instance, organizations such as schools will get end-to-end encryption even if they are not paying but are on a business plan. Alex Stamos, the security consultant at Zoom added that Zoom’s recent stance will not entirely eliminate abuse, however, this stance will help the company to reduce the harm. We are not yet sure when the new changes will take place as the company has not announced a roll-out date for the new end-to-end encryption tools.

Update: In an email to Digital Information World, a Zoom spokesperson explained that:
“Zoom’s AES 256 GCM encryption is turned on for all Zoom users - free and paid. Zoom does not proactively monitor meeting content, and we do not share information with law enforcement except in circumstances like child sex abuse. We do not have backdoors where anyone can enter meetings without being visible to others. None of this will change.
Zoom’s end-to-end encryption plan balances the privacy of its users with the safety of vulnerable groups, including children and potential victims of hate crimes. We plan to provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity, thereby limiting harm to these vulnerable groups. Free users sign up with an email address, which does not provide enough information to verify identity.
The current decision by Zoom's management is to offer end-to-end encryption to business and enterprise tiers. We are determining the best path forward for providing end-to-end encryption to our Pro users.
Zoom has engaged with child safety advocates, civil liberties organizations, encryption experts, and law enforcement to incorporate their feedback into our plan. Finding the perfect balance is challenging. We always strive to do the right thing.”

Photo: ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

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