Zoom Is Being Ripped for Aiding Law Enforcement Amid George Floyd Protests

Zoom came under fire last week after the company said on Tuesday that it would not add end-to-end encryption to free calls so the company can continue cooperating with law enforcement. Zoom confirmed the decision during a conference call with analysts on the same day the company voiced support for Black Lives Matter and the George Floyd protests by publishing a "Blackout Tuesday" message on Twitter. The company's video-conferencing product has become the go-to way for people to communicate and hold business meetings during the coronavirus pandemic.

Encryption has become a significant concern for Zoom users, as the use of the product skyrocketed in recent months, making some privacy issues more apparent to the company. For example, the practice of "Zoombombing" became a major issue, as trolls interrupted meetings and conversations they were not invited to with profanity and sometimes sharing pornographic images. On Tuesday, Bloomberg reported on some of the moves the company is making to ensure that it can no longer happen. Still, the end-to-end encryption option will only be available to premium users and corporate clients paying a fee.

"Free users for sure we don’t want to give that because we also want to work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose," Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said during Tuesday's call with analysts. The service is now in development and would make it impossible for a third party to join a meeting on both ends of the call. On Twitter, Zoom security consultant Alex Stamos further explained that the service will be offered to clients like schools, which may have a free business plan. "Will this eliminate all abuse? No, but since the vast majority of harm comes from self-service users with fake identities this will create friction and reduce harm," Stamos explained.

Zoom did add some encryption for free users. A company spokesman told CNet they are working with "child safety advocates, civil liberties organizations, encryption experts and law enforcement" on its strategy. The main focus of encryption development has centered on protecting children and possible victims of hate crimes.

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"We plan to provide end-to-end encryption to users for whom we can verify identity, thereby limiting harm to these vulnerable groups. Free users sign up with an email address, which does not provide enough information to verify identity," the spokesman explained. "Finding the perfect balance is challenging. We always strive to do the right thing."

After the news broke, Twitter users criticized the company for only offering to encrypt calls for paid users. "Way to be a hypocrite by not encrypting free Zoom calls," one person tweeted in response to Zoom's Blackout Tuesday tweet. "This is called trying to cover your own a— with fake support," another user lashed out. "Whoever is managing this page should be ashamed they're not acknowledging their scumbag CEO. Do what's right, quit your social media management job, but before you do post something believable."