The ongoing global coronavirus crisis has spurred widespread adoption of remote working tools such as video conferencing, file sharing and VPN. Since February, popular video conferencing service Zoom has enjoyed all-time high user engagement and revenue growth.
However, according to Doc Searls, co-author of internet marketing book The Cluetrain Manifesto, Zoom has been covertly collecting massive amounts of personal data belonging to users and sharing the data with advertisers for profit.
These personal details include names, addresses job titles and employers, device specifications and Facebook profiles as well as content stored in cloud recordings, files, instant messages, and whiteboards.
In his blog, Searls said “Zoom doesn’t need to be in the advertising business, least of all in the part of it that lives like a vampire off the blood of human data. If Zoom needs more money, it should charge more for its services, or give less away for free. Zoom has an extremely valuable service, which it performs very well—better than anybody else, apparently. It also has a platform with lots of apps with just as absolute an interest in privacy. They should be concerned as well.”
“Zoom is in the advertising business, and in the worst end of it: the one that lives off harvested personal data. What makes this extra creepy is that Zoom is in a position to gather plenty of personal data, some of it very intimate (for example with a shrink talking to a patient) without anyone in the conversation knowing about it. (Unless, of course, they see an ad somewhere that looks like it was informed by a private conversation on Zoom.)" he added.
Following the publication of Searls blog post, Zoom has issued a public clarification on its website, stating that they do not sell any personal data of users.
“Zoom collects only the user data that is required to provide you Zoom services. This includes technical and operational support and service improvement. For example, we collect information such as a user’s IP address and OS and device details to deliver the best possible Zoom experience to you regardless of how and from where you join.
“We do not use data we obtain from your use of our services, including your meetings, for any advertising. We do use data we obtain from you when you visit our marketing websites, such as zoom.us and zoom.com. You have control over your own cookie settings when visiting our marketing websites,” Zoom added.