BusinessDay

Users of video-conferencing app, Zoom are exposed to these 3 risks

    ….as subscribers surge by 23m in 2 months

With the deadly coronavirus causing a surge in work-from-home activity, Zoom, a video-conferencing app has become one of the most popular platforms for virtual meetings.

The Chinese company which was founded in 2011 allows its users to host up to 100 participants for free on a 40 minutes group meeting. With $15 per month that number can increase to 400 participants.

The California-based tech company grew its active users from less than 5 million in January 2020 to 26.9 million in March. The same period when the coronavirus outbreak became a global pandemic.

Analysis of the data by Statista, an online data portal shows that Zoom added more than 23 million users in two months.

This is due to the fact that millions of businesses around the world have embraced the idea of working from home as countries are taking positions in curtailing the spread of the novel virus which has claimed the lives of more than 53,000 people globally with more than one million confirmed infections.

“With a stay at home order around, businesses are buying and downloading Zoom for their operations,”Kalu Aja, the CEO of the Abuja-based AfriSwiss Capital Assets Management Ltd said.

However, users of the Zoom have been advised by industry players to consider these three data security risks when using the platform.

Zoomboming

Users of the video app have raised alarm over “Zoomboming’. While this may have not happened to everyone using the platform, some users are however at risk of a third party crashing their meetings.

This implies that an uninvited party can have access to a meeting and also access some data from the participants.

“About 25 minutes into the online session, online trolls also known as “Zoom Bombers” bombed our meeting and shared derogatory visuals and comments. We sincerely regret this and take full responsibility for this breach in your privacy and online security,” Northcourt, a Lagos-based real estate advisory firm said in a mail seen by BusinessDay.

According to the company, it reported the incident to Zoom technologies and hope to “work with them to prevent this from happening to even more people.”

While stating that the number of daily meeting users reached more than 200 million in March, Eric Yuan, the chief executive officer of Zoom admitted that despite “working around the clock” to support the influx of new users, the service had “fallen short of the community’s – and our own – privacy and security expectations”.

 Data exposure

The unclear language in Zoom’s privacy policy about its relationship to third-party data crunchers raises eyebrows as to what extent users’ data is being shared or sold to a third party.

According to the privacy policy which is displayed to potential users when installing the app (although it is ignored most of the time due to the rush to sign up on the app) states that “Zoom does use certain standard advertising tools which require Personal Data (think, for example, Google Ads and Google Analytics).”

But the policy says “we use these tools to help us improve your advertising experience (such as serving advertisements on our behalf across the Internet, serving personalized ads on our website, and providing analytics services).”

According to the policy, sharing personal data with the third-party provider while using these tools may fall within the extremely broad definition of the ‘sale’ of Personal Data under certain state laws because those companies might use Personal Data for their own business purposes, as well as Zoom’s purposes.

Rae Hodge, a tech analyst interpreted the above corporate statement to mean: “Zoom shares data with enough advertisers and data crunchers, in enough states, that it would broadly qualify as selling your data.”

She, however, advised that users should review their Zoom and device security settings with an eye toward minimizing permissions.

Tattle-tale

Whether a participant of a meeting is using Zoom’s desktop client or mobile app, a meeting host can enable a built-in option through the help of a tattle-tale attention-tracking feature to alert them if any attendees go more than 30 seconds without Zoom being in focus on their screen.

This could mean that a participant who may be glancing at reference documents or discreetly asking and answering clarifying questions in a separate chat (these key parts of any normal meeting are described by experts as indicators of an engaged listener) may appear unserious to the host.

“When translated to online conferencing, they often mean switching windows and shouldn’t be mistaken for signs of inattention,” an analyst said adding that it is even worse for the participant as he/she wouldn’t be aware that the host will be noticing their time off from the visual meeting.

 

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