Google bans Zoom from employee use
The popular videoconferencing software Zoom will no longer be available for employees to use on their proprietary devices, according to Buzzfeed. As a competitor to Google's own Meet app, Zoom saw a major jump in general and professional use, and had become a cultural touchstone of quarantine amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The story began last week when Google emailed its employees whose work laptops used Zoom, warning employees of "security vulnerabilities" and hinted that the videoconferencing software would cease to function on employee laptops sometime this week.
"We have long had a policy of not allowing employees to use unapproved apps for work that are outside of our corporate network," said Google Spokesperson Jose Castaneda to Buzzfeed News. "Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees. Employees who have been using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends can continue to do so through a web browser or via mobile," Castaneda added.
With headquarters in San Jose, California, Zoom went public in 2019, which launched its CEO Eric Yuan into billionaire status. Initially, the company's videoconferencing service was designed to help corporations carry out webinars and meetings but has in the time of COVID-19 seen mass use as a way for people in lockdown to join one another for gym sessions, education classes, cocktail parties, and more. Last month, roughly 200 million people used Zoom every day, compared to only 10 million in December 2019.
Numerous concerns about Zoom's security issues
However, Zoom's sudden growth was plagued by worries regarding the service's privacy and security. In March, an investigation carried out by Motherboard found that Zoom's app for iPhone and iPads sent user device data to Facebook, even if they didn't have Facebook accounts.
Zoom ceased the data leak to Facebook in the day following the report, but it was soon marred by additional problems. A hacker, formerly of the NSA, found a security issue with Zoom that might allow bad actors to seize control of users' microphones and webcams, gaining control of Apple iMacs. The Intercept then showed how Zoom calls were not encrypted according to Zoom official specs. And, last week, the videoconferencing company announced that some of its video calls were "mistakenly" routed via servers located in China — when they weren't supposed to be. Additionally, the offices of 27 attorneys general have raised concerns regarding the company.
Elon Musk's SpaceX also banned Zoom for employees
This comes on the heels of earlier bans of Zoom use for employees of other companies. Earlier in April, Elon Musk's SpaceX also banned Zoom use among employees, citing "significant privacy and security concerns," reported Reuters. Just last Monday, New York City's Department of Education stressed that schools should abandon Zoom use and switch to Microsoft.
"We recognize that we have fallen short of the community's — and our own — privacy and security expectations," wrote Zoom CEO Yuan in a blog post from earlier in April. "For that, I am deeply sorry."
As the worldwide wave of COVID-19 sends one-third of humanity into quarantine and isolation, the technology available to those forced to work from home is essential, but also a crucial site of digital vulnerability for the exploitation of companies, employees, and people in general. Bad actors or not, it's certainly an interesting time to be alive.