Zoom is the company we've all come to rely on during the COVID-19 pandemic. Zoom is such a popular conference system that its name has been transformed into generic usage. Zoom has become a noun ("the judge used Zoom for the verdict"), an adjective ("the deposition was done on a Zoom call.") and a verb ("I'm going to Zoom my lawyer today."). Barely a day goes by when we don't Zoom someone.
Over the period of the pandemic, Zoom started out as a release valve to stay in touch visually and verbally with business associates and friends. However, after five months, Zoom meetings have grown tiring. Relief is now palpable when one doesn't have a Zoom call on a given day.
Importantly, Zoom is not encrypted and has publicly said that it intends not to encrypt its code for consumers. This mean that our conversations are accessible to hackers and to geopolitical players who want to spy on our conversations. These Zoom conversations are often more than just social; they often involve business strategy, legal matters and other presumably confidential discussions.
Confidentiality is breached when uninvited outsiders observe your meetings. China has both the technology and the will to do this. Moreover, they use what they learn from us to engage in behaviors that violate the freedoms that we in the US value highly, such as the right of free speech and the rule of law.
An egregious example was on June 4 of this year. By way of background, June 4 is the uncelebrated anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre where hundreds of thousands of peace protestors were gunned down or killed by tanks rolled in by the Chinese communists. The massacre is hidden by the China Communist Party (CCP); anniversary celebrants are punished by the CCP.
On June 4, 2020, "Zoom disabled the accounts of a group of Chinese dissidents in the US after they used its video conference service to commemorate the Tiananmen Square massacre."
"Zoom's role in shutting down the meeting, which was hosted and organized by activists in the US but included participants dialing in from China, will increase fears about the platform's security and how it will respond to government censorship requests."
Zoom admitted in early July that it was “developing technology over the next several days that will enable us to remove or block at the participant level based on geography”. “This will enable us to comply with requests from local authorities,” it added.
“We were notified by the Chinese government about four large, public June 4 commemoration meetings on Zoom . . . The Chinese government informed us that this activity is illegal in China and demanded that Zoom terminate the meetings and host accounts,” Zoom said.*
Please comment about how you feel about China spying on your conversations and censoring what you say.
*Yuan Yang in Beijing, Financial Times, JULY 7, 2020