Zoom has emerged as a savior during the Covid-19 pandemic, connecting co-workers, family members, and even allowing for impressive online performances, but as with other video conferencing apps, is it our hero? or is there a devil hiding in the background?
Companies have been offering some form of group video conferencing for years. Even iChat had group video conferencing back in 2004, although back then with up to only 4 people. Still, Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts, all allow some form of group video chat with varying number of participants, features, and security. But Zoom is what’s captured our attention, suddenly becoming the go to app for video conferencing during the pandemic. Why is Zoom suddenly Ms. Congeniality? Simple: it’s reliable, low latency, easy, fun, and is platform independent, working on iOS, Android, Windows, etc. It’s also free for up to 100 participants for 40 minutes per session, and has some excellent and fun features like beautification filters, backgrounds, and breakout rooms, which are really useful for online learning.
To be fair, any platform receiving the level of traffic and use that Zoom has sustained since this pandemic began, is bound to have issues, but some of Zoom’s issues have more to do with business practices than technology, with privacy issues, data hoarding and sharing issues, and others that go beyond security problems such as zoombombing (a lot of which have been addressed recently).
It would seem that despite some of their security issues getting addressed, other practices have only been “fixed” when they’ve been caught and publicly shamed, or not at all. For example, while it claims to offer end-to-end encryption, they’ve chosen to define that without including content encryption, meaning the content itself is not encrypted. The iOS app was sending device data to Facebook, even when the user didn’t have Facebook installed. It was sharing personal data with Facebook and other companies and sending user names and e-mail addresses to LinkedIn. All this was without informing users of the practice or making clear what was being harvested or why.
Despite these practices, it seems like they’ve been addressing all these issues and with more scrutiny, been clearer and more open as to what they use, who they share what with and why. They’ve also attempted to gain goodwill by helping schools during the pandemic, expanding their access for free for what would’ve been paid features. In times of need, every little bit helps.
Are they devil or angel or neither? Time will tell. For now, they’re everyone’s darling service.
Zoom may have everyone beat during this pandemic, but other players not only exist, but are still popular, if not as fun or featureful. It still may be worth a look depending on your use case. The important thing during the Covid-19 pandemic is to stay connected, especially when you’re quarantined.
Just be aware of which tool you’re using, read about its security features, and weigh your needs against its policies and practices, protecting your data and that of your loved ones, co-workers, etc.
Mozilla, the non-profit that makes Firefox, has published an excellent piece about making your Zoom gatherings more private. You can read it here: https://foundation.mozilla.org/en/blog/tips-make-your-zoom-gatherings-more-private/
Francisco Tomas Fernandez has been helping clients with their businesses for over 25 years. Whether it’s consulting, marketing, web development, design, or more, we’re here to help.
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