Zoom Meetings recently announced that end-to-end encryption would be coming to their video conferencing software but there’s catch. Most popular chat applications have end-to-end encryption enabled for all users but in Zoom’s case, encryption will be reserved for paid users.
The reasoning behind this decision by Zoom is not motivated by money – if you’re to believe what the CEO of ZOOM Eric Yuan. He says the decision was made in order to assist law enforcement authorities;
Free users — for sure we don’t want to give [them] that, because we also want to work together with the FBI, with local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.
I have a hard time finding how that reasoning holds up given that criminals could simply pay for the end-to-end encryption and when that happens Zoom’s hands are tied and they can’t help authorities.
In my opinion this seems like a play at two things; first, encouraging users to pay since they will have beefed up security if they do so and beyond that it also seems like something done to pacify authorities.
There have been ongoing conversations regarding encryption and the push by government officials in western nations has been to create back doors to enable them to access information with the intention to put an end to criminal activity.
Those against this have cited privacy as the biggest concern and some of the companies have said they will not enable back doors which compromise user privacy. It seems Zoom is trying to please everyone by walking the tight line between offering paying customers encryption and giving authorities access to information belonging to free users. Zoom did elaborate on which circumstances will lead to the sharing of information with authorities;
Zoom does not proactively monitor meeting content, and we do not share information with law enforcement except in circumstances like child sex abuse. We do not have backdoors where participants can enter meetings without being visible to others. None of this will change
Zoom’s end-to-end encryption plan balances the privacy of its users with the safety of vulnerable groups, including children and potential victims of hate crimes. 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 identityZoom Statement
In Zoom’s defence they did announce that most of the harmful behaviour on the application came from free users who have fake identities so there is is some substance to their thinking:
As indicated in the tweet above, schools or companies using business plans via a Zoom offer will have end-to-end encryption. If it’s on an offer basis there will be issues because smaller organisations and schools in certain countries might have a hard time getting these offers in order to access these features that are free to other institutions.