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Zoom Privacy Risks: Here’s What Your Boss Can Really See in Your Video Chats


Make sure to update your Zoom privacy settings.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Now that you’ve been working from home for over a year, you’ve probably got the hang of it custom zoom background, which graciously saves your colleagues the sight of a growing pile of gym socks at your desk, and you might think you’ve mastered the conference call software du jour. Unfortunately, there are a few other data security considerations to make if you want to hide your dirty laundry.

Zoom quickly becomes the favorite video meeting app when the novel coronavirus caused an increase in homeworking activity. As roll out vaccines and offices become hybrid workplaces, it looks like Zoom is staying here. However, with that popularity comes privacy risks, which extend to a wider range of users.

Read more: 20 Zoom Video Chat Tips, Tricks and Hidden Features


Brett Pearce/CNET

From built-in attention tracking features to exploitable software bugs and issues with: “Zoom Bombing” (where uninvited attendees break in and disrupt meetings) — Zoom’s security practices have drawn criticism from users around the world over the past year. In March 2020, New York Attorney General Letitia James sent Zoom a letter outlining concerns about privacy vulnerabilities, while the New York Department of Education decided to prevent educators from using the software to communicate with students. The Electronic Frontier Foundation also warned users who work from home about the software’s built-in privacy features.

Privacy experts previously raised concerns about Zoom in 2019, when the video conferencing software experienced both a webcam hacking scandal and a bug that could have allowed snooping users to join video meetings they weren’t invited to.

The issues exacerbated by widespread adoption at the start of the pandemic were only the latest chapter in the software’s rocky security history and led to Zoom CEO Eric Yuan to respond to concerns in April 2020, freezing feature updates to fix security vulnerabilities during a 90-day update rollout. Although Zoom has since added new security features such as end-to-end encryption, there are a few more things to keep in mind to keep your chats as private as possible.

Here are some of the privacy vulnerabilities in Zoom to be aware of when working remotely.

1. Zoom’s cutting-edge attention-tracking feature knows if you’re paying attention

Attention employers, managers and home workers. Zoom’s high-profile attention-tracking feature can tell your meeting host if you’re not paying attention to their carefully curated visual aids. Whether you’re using Zoom’s desktop client or mobile app, a meeting host can enable a built-in option that alerts them if attendees spend more than 30 seconds without Zoom focused on their screen.

If you’re anything like me, your Zoom meetings rarely take up your entire screen. Jotting down notes in a separate text file, adding dates to calendars, glancing at reference documents, or discreetly asking and answering clarifying questions in a separate chat – these important parts of any regular meeting are all indicators of an engaged listener. When translated to online conferences, they often mean switching windows and should not be mistaken for signs of inattention.

However, to bolster your privacy, consider switching to a separate device if you want to handle secondary meeting tasks or create memes about poorly constructed pie charts.


Zoom hosts can enable a setting that tells them whether you keep the video screen active on your computer.

Sarah Tew/CNET

2. Zoom’s cloud recording feature can share meeting video with people outside the call

For paid subscribers, Zoom’s cloud recording feature can be a life saver or a catastrophic faux pas waiting to happen. If the feature is enabled for the account, a host can record the meeting along with the text transcript and a text file of all active chats in that meeting, and store them in the cloud for later access by other authorized users at your company, including people who may never have attended the meeting in question. Yaks.

As Mashable’s Zack Morse put it, “What that suggests, but doesn’t clarify, is that for non-webinar/standard meetings, your personal chat messages are sent to your boss later after a conversation is recorded in the cloud.”

Zoom does, however, allow a narrowing of the audience here. Administrators can limit the accessibility of the recording to only certain pre-approved IP addresses, even if the recording has already been shared.

Read more: The best VPN services for 2021

3. Zoom even shared information with Facebook

You’re used to it from privacy-conscious people: don’t use Facebook to log in to other sites and software, unless you want to Facebook to have data on what you do. Fair enough. But what if Zoom gets caught sending some of your analytics data to Facebook — whether or not you have a Facebook account?

An analysis by Vice’s motherboard found that the iOS version of the Zoom app did just that. Thanks to Facebook’s Graph API, Zoom told Facebook when you opened the Zoom app, what phone or device you were using, and your phone company, location, and a unique advertising ID. Motherboard also reported that Zoom had updated its iOS app so that the app would stop sending certain data to Facebook.

Zoom did not respond to CNET’s request for comment at the time. But a statement to Motherboard reads:

“Zoom takes the privacy of its users extremely seriously. We originally implemented the ‘Sign in with Facebook’ feature using the Facebook SDK to provide another easy way for our users to access our platform. However, we recently became aware of it. informed that the Facebook SDK collected unnecessary device data.”


Zoom may share information with third parties, including Facebook.

Sarah Tew/CNET

As late as March 2020, Zoom’s privacy policy contained some lighthearted language about its relationship with third-party data crunchers, giving us reason to wonder where else — and to what extent — that data was being shared or sold that we didn’t know about. .

“Zoom uses certain standard advertising tools that require personal data (for example, Google Ads and Google Analytics). We use these tools to help us improve your advertising experience (such as showing ads on our behalf across the web, personalized advertising on our website and the provision of analytics services),” the policy said at the time. “Sharing of personal data with the third party provider while using these tools may fall under the extremely broad definition of the ‘sale’ of personal data under certain state laws, because those companies may use personal information for their own business purposes, as well as Zoom’s purposes.”

But at the end of March, Zoom updated its privacy policy. In a statement following the move, Zoom said that while it did not change its current practices, it wanted to make its language clearer. As for its relationship with the third-party data processors described above, the company drew a line in the sand between its product and its website. “This only relates to user activity on the zoom.us website. Data about user activity on the Zoom platform – including video, audio and chat content – is never provided to third parties for advertising purposes,” the company said.

You should probably review your Zoom and device security settings with a view to minimizing permissions and making sure all anti-tracking software on your device is up to date and running.

It might not help, but it can’t hurt.

For more information about using the sneaky sneak Zoom Escaper Tool to get out of your meetings, and how to fight Zoom anxiety.

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