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Tuesday, June 02, 2020

‘We take user privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously’: Zoom

On Friday the Supreme Court “sought response from the Centre on a plea which has sought a ban on the use of video communications app Zoom for official as well as personal purposes until appropriate legislation is put in place.”

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | Updated: May 23, 2020 2:47:19 pm
Zoom, Zoom safety, Zoom video calling app, Zoom hack, Zoom MHA guidelines, Zoom banned, Zoom safety features, Zoom MHA Zoom ban in India: SC seeks Centre’s response to ban for breaching user privacy (Image source: Reuters)

While Zoom has received a great response across the world amid the lockdown when people are majorly dependent on video calling services to connect with their loved ones, there has been some trouble for the platform too. The government of India previously asked every citizen of the country to stop using the Zoom video conference platform as it breaches privacy. The Supreme Court has now “sought response from the Centre on a plea which has sought a ban on the use of video communications app Zoom for official as well as personal purposes until appropriate legislation is put in place.”

Commenting on the matter a Zoom spokesperson said, “Zoom takes user privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously. We have been focused on enhancing our commitment to security and privacy under our 90-day plan announced April 1st, and have made significant progress. Zoom is an American company listed on Nasdaq and for close to a decade we have been helping some of the world’s largest financial services companies, leading telecommunications providers, government agencies, universities and others stay connected in a safe and secure manner. Many of these entities have done exhaustive security reviews of our user, network and data center layers and confidently selected Zoom for complete deployment, and we actively engage with them[, as we are with the Indian Central Government,] to provide them with any information they need to make informed decisions.” “In India, we’ve been proud to help businesses, government agencies, communities, school teachers, and other users stay connected during this challenging and unprecedented time,” the spokesperson added.

Zoom ban plea: Here are the developments

This isn’t the first time that the government is insisting on banning the use of Zoom in the country for everyone, be it for official or personal work. On Friday, a bench headed by Chief Justice SA Bobde has issued a notice to the Centre on the plea raising privacy concern in the app. The Press Trust of India noted that the notice highlighted that the use of Zoom is “making the users vulnerable and prone to cyber threats.”

According to the publication the video conferencing application has a bug that can be “abused intentionally to leak information of users to third parties”. The plea states that Zoom’s claims on calls being end-to-end encrypted is false “when they are not.” It added that Zoom previously accepted that it “mistakenly” routed traffic through China.

The plea further highlighted that in times when everything is going online and people are always on the internet it’s “not that difficult to hack if a secure network is not used”. Incidents of cyber attackers are increasing with every passing day and the government is educating everyone to stay aware and not fall for such tricks.

Zoom daily users surge to 300 million despite privacy woes This isn’t the first time that the government has been insisting on banning the use of Zoom in the country for everyone, be it for official or personal work.(Photographer: Gabby Jones/Bloomberg)

The bench requested the government of India “to file its reply within four weeks on the which has arrayed US-based Zoom Video Communications as one of the respondents in the case.” The plea, filed by Harsh Chugh, a Delhi resident, asked the Centre to carry out an “exhaustive technical study into the security and privacy risks of using Zoom application.” Additionally, the plea filed through advocate Wajeeh Shafiq noted that using the platform constantly can “put the national security at stake and might also give a boom to number of cyber-threats and cyber crimes in India.”

“Rather than lending a hand to people in need, Zoom violates the privacy of its millions of users by misusing and exploiting their personal information and falsely, deceptively and misleadingly advertising fictitious security benefits of the program,” the plea said. The plea highlights that Zoom “practices data hoarding and cyber hoarding” including mass storage of personal user data, cloud recordings, instant messages and also files.

The Centre previously asked everyone to stop using Zoom due to security concerns. It asked the startups of India to create a made-in-India alternative for Zoom which everyone can use to communicate with one another. Several tech startups of the country have started developing group video calling platforms which are completely made in India. We interviewed some of them a few weeks ago, read about them here.

While Zoom is being highly criticised for all the security concerns that are being highlighted, other platforms such as Google Meet, Microsoft Skype and others are using this opportunity to promote their product. Meanwhile, Facebook launched Messenger Rooms and extended participants limit to eight for WhatsApp group calls.

“We are working with different divisions, different ministries of the government. Our goal is to communicate the right things to them, share our requisite privacy, security and the technical aspects of our platform and help them to get the right decisions and thereby communicate the same to the masses. We are in the process of doing that and that will continue to do so,” Zoom’s India head and General Manager Sameer Raje told earlier this month. Read full interview here.

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