Zoom’s Unexpected Boom May be Short Lived with Privacy Backlash
In the twinkle of an eye, Zoom, the video conferencing software company has gone from ‘What is zoom’ to becoming an important tool for companies, startups and employees working from home. Months ago, Zoom was merely a fast-growing success story in the universe of enterprise communications. In a Pandemic, Zoom has suddenly become a critical infrastructure, for billions of people around the world who are bored and need some of form of connection and for those working from home.
Zoom, is a video conferencing software, which allows users to talk to 99 other people or more simultaneously. The app has been used to host virtual classrooms, church services, meetings, even blind dates. It offers a free version for calls of less than 40 minutes. Zoom’s surge in popularity has come from the social distancing policies around the globe to limit physical contact, which has curbed the spread of the Coronavirus.
The video conferencing software, Zoom, was founded by Eric Yuan, who owns 20% of the company’s shares, and has seen his estimated net worth increase by more than $4bn since the Covid-19 crisis started. Yaun came up with the idea for his own video conferencing software while at the University of China, after working on video conferencing technology at Cisco Webex for more than a decade. The plan he had for Zoom then, didn’t involve virtual schooling or parties. With the COVID’s lockdown, Zoom’s new traffic isn’t just from workplace conference calls.
Its simple interface that allows users to join a meeting with one click on the app has made it easy for millions of people who want to maintain a form of connection with their family, friends and colleagues. Apart from that, schools and colleges are teaching classes on Zoom; religious leaders are hosting services; those who are apart from their families and frustrated by the inconvenient distancing are holding family reunions and child naming ceremonies via Zoom. People are dating, having parties and trivia night conversations using the platform.
However, the surge in working remotely may prove temporary, but it is having an impact on the use of Zoom that many companies and business owners are using t communicate with their staff operating away from traditional offices. And recently, this remote-work boom has been highlighted in Zoom’s earnings, with the increased demand for the use of the tool, from its free to paid services. Before the COVID lockdown and the work from home trend, Zoom’s daily users were pegged at 10 million, which have now skyrocketed to 200 million users. With the global pandemic crippling the economy, the company’s share has climbed up becoming the top performing stock on NASDAQ this year with over 130 gains.
Why the unexpected boom?
- Although other freemium and price-accessible models exist, most business owners believe that Zoom offers pure quality more than most other video conferencing software apps. In a very conclusive manner, to these business owners, Zoom is easier to use for internal meetings and for adding someone who is not in their organization. There are features that allow users to adjust meeting times and select multiple hosts. It also has collaboration tools like simultaneous screen-sharing and co-annotation, and ability to record meetings and generate transcripts. For instance, up to 1,000 users can participate in a single Zoom video call and 49 videos can appear on the screen at once. The increase in popularity through word of mouth and link sharing can be connected to how Zoom takes out the frustrating pain points for video conference tools and worked much better.
- Another argument is how the combination of quality and affordability has extended Zoom’s reach way beyond the enterprise world. With the global lock down and a frustrating need to still stay connected, which has confined most regular daily activities to Zoom links, has surged the demand for the use of the video conferencing software. For a basic free plan, Zoom allows a user to host up to 100 participants. The paid plan for small and medium business owners range from $15o to $20 a month per host. While large enterprise can have access to a minimum of 50 host for the price of $20 a month.
However, the unexpected boom may be short-lived with privacy backlash, as Zoom-meeting video recordings saved on Zoom’s cloud servers can be easily discovered and often viewed. It turns out the Zoom security feature that has been described as being ‘the end-to-end encrypted’ does not afford the protection of being completely encrypted at all times in transit. Allegedly, Zoom has been found to join users into call links and shared their camera feeds without an initial check to let users confirm they wanted to launch the app. That means hackers could have crafted Zoom links that instantly gave them access to a user’s video feed and everything going on around them with one click.
Another Zoom privacy’s vulnerability is a type of online abuse known as ‘Zoombombing’, in which trolls abuse Zoom’s default screen-sharing settings to take over meetings—often with racist messages or pornography. Aside from risks like “Zoom-bombing,” Zoom hosts are also able to monitor all call activity while screen-sharing is live and can see the operating system, IP address, location data, and device information of every participant who is in a video-call.
With millions of people relying on the video conferencing software to continue with their daily activities during the lockdown, and substantial fears of being exposed to privacy risks which has spiked up might lead to an untimely end to Zoom’s boom.