The Supreme Court on Friday, 22 May, issued notice to the central government on a public interest litigation (PIL) asking for a ban on video-conferencing app Zoom, on the basis of privacy and cyber-security concerns.
Homemaker Harsh Chugh filed the petition against the app, which is owned by a US-based company, and has become one of the most popular video-conferencing tools across the globe, in light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Chugh, who also takes tuition classes, has been doing the same through Zoom because of the COVID-19 lockdown in India.
Her petition notes that there have been several news reports about privacy and security breaches of the Zoom app, and that even the CEO of the company had made a public apology for these flaws.
The issues raised by the petitioner include the fact that Zoom calls are not end-to-end encrypted (despite ‘falsely’ claiming they are), that it indulges in ‘data hoarding’ of private users, storing cloud recordings, instant messages, etc, and that it has a bug which unintentionally leaks personal data.
The petition also mentions what has come to be known as ‘Zoombombing’, where people crash Zoom calls and say offensive things, expose themselves or share pornographic/hate images.
The PIL claims that the app violates the right to privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution, as it allows data collection, storage and access without the user’s knowledge.
On this basis, Chugh has asked the Supreme Court to pass directions to the government to carry out “an exhaustive technical study into the security and/or privacy risks of use of ‘zoom’ for official and personal purpose by the public.”
Till such time as this is done and an appropriate legislation for protection of data is put in place, she has asked the court to ban the use of the app for official and personal purposes.
A bench of Chief Justice SA Bobde, along with Justices AS Bopanna and Hrishikesh Roy decided to issue notice on the PIL, and asked the Centre to respond to it within four weeks, after which the matter will be taken up again.
(With inputs from Bar and Bench.)