Privacy experts criticize Zoom for not giving free users encryption

Privacy experts criticize Zoom for not giving free users end-to-end encryption over worries that it won’t be able to cooperate with law enforcement

  • Zoom says it won’t extend end-to-end encryption to its free users 
  • The company says the encryption would hinder cooperation with police 
  • It’s decision drew flack from privacy experts  

Zoom is facing backlash from digital security and privacy experts after saying it will only give its paid users end-to-end encryption. 

The confirmation that only paying Zoom users will be able to take advantage of its upcoming encryption measures comes from the company’s CEO, Eric Yuan.

As reported by Bloomberg, Yuan addressed its plans for premium-only encryption during an earnings call for the company this week. 

Zoom won’t roll out encryption to its free users according to a recent earnings call. Pictured, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan, seen here at the firm’s IPO in New York last April

‘Free users for sure we don’t want to give [e2e encryption] because we also want to work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose,’ Yuan said during the call. 

As noted by privacy experts following the call, Yuan’s statement seems to suggest that users who either choose not to pay Zoom or don’t have the option are at greater risk of using Zoom for illicit purposes. 

In a tweet, the Associate Director of Research at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Gennie Gebhart, criticized the policy for its reflection on non-paying Zoom users.

‘You heard that right, activists, journalists, organizers, and cash-strapped non-profits of the world: Zoom *could* offer you best-practice security, but it won’t, because you might be a child pornographer. Better luck next time,’ wrote Gebhart.

Likewise, Privacy expert Pat Walshe tweeted that the policy devalues Zoom’s free users.

‘This is a bizarre policy to say the least. Zoom. Perhaps it should have said “Y’all free users are just potential criminals. Y’all don’t deserve e2e protection,’ he wrote.  

Zoom has come under fire for myriad security lapses throughout the last several months including issues with video calls being interrupted with child porn (stock) 

The decision not to roll out end-to-end encryption for all users comes at a time when full-on encryption is under attack by the US government under President Donald Trump.

Legislation introduced to the US senate this year could undercut true encryption, giving law enforcement a back door to data that was traditionally off limits. The bill has the support of conservative lawmakers and of US Attorney General, William Barr.

That effort to outlaw end-to-end encryption may also explain the backlash Zoom is receiving from privacy experts for failing to protect all of its users’ data.

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