Is Your Zoom Video Call Really As Private As You Think It Is?

Online meetings on Zoom are increasing rapidly. But they may have some serious privacy concerns.

Tech and Auto
3 min read
Your Zoom video call may not be as private as you think.

Zoom has seen rapid growth in the wake of the Coronavirus epidemic. It is adding new users every day. A recent report by CNBC stated that Zoom has added more users in three months of 2020 than it did in all of 2019.

As a result of its rapid growth, it has also come under scrutiny by various officials, especially for its privacy policies.

Zoom has already had a major security vulnerability that the company fixed in 2019, but many internet privacy groups are still skeptical of the video conferencing platform's security practices.

Now, with so many organisations and educational institutions moving to Zoom, it only makes sense for us to understand how much of our data is being collected by Zoom.


What Zoom Knows During Your Call

While you're on a video call with your boss or your teacher, Zoom can potentially alert the host when you're not paying attention. Yes, Zoom knows when you're browsing your Instagram feed or looking at memes while in an online meeting, and it alerts your boss too.

With a feature called Attendee Attention Tracking, Zoom alerts the host when a participant does not have the Zoom desktop client or mobile app in focus for 30 seconds while someone is sharing a screen.

Zoom defines “in focus” as having the Zoom meeting view open and active.

The Attention tracking feature can be toggled in the settings
The Attention tracking feature can be toggled in the settings
Photo: Zoom

Zoom also lets hosts record their meetings, which adds new privacy risks for users. The recorded version of the call can be viewed at a later date, maybe even by someone who was not on that call.

Zoom also allows hosts to receive a TXT file with the transcript of all in-meeting chat messages. Zoom’s support page doesn’t clarify whether this applies to just messages shared with everyone in the meeting or it also includes chats exchanged between individual attendees.

What Zoom Knows After Your Call

Just like every other app out there, Zoom is no exception to collecting personal data.

What makes matters worse is that the Privacy policy states that if you use the service in any way, Zoom may collect your data whether you have a Zoom account or not.

It also collects data from your Facebook profile if you use Facebook to sign in.

The privacy policy states that its methods of collecting user data are fairly standard practices and it does not sell user data to third-party sources. However, it does share this data with Google Ads and Google Analytics for advertisement purposes.

Zoom has thankfully offered users to opt-out of the “sale” of their information.

How You Can Play it Safe

If you’re going to browse social media or talk to your colleagues while you’re on a Zoom call, it’s best to use a different device for it, instead of doing it on the same device as your call. This won’t notify the host and it will also not show up in the chat transcript after the call.

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