No end-to-end encryption for free users in Zoom

Zoom, a video calling company, confirmed this week that it will not enable end-to-end encryption for free calls in part because it wants to give access to those calls to law enforcement if necessary. “We think this feature should be a part of our offering,” Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said Tuesday at a meeting with investors. ” 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.”

Encryption is a key issue for Zoom, which tried to boost its privacy and security during the COVID-19 pandemic after heavy use exposed weak points. Reuters announced last week that the firm would only carry out end-to – end high-performance encryption to paying clients, with likely exceptions for dissident parties or non-profits needing extra protection.

There is a conversation across the industry about protecting privacy without making it too difficult to catch illegal and abusive content. Currently Congress is considering a bill that opponents fear might legally punish using social media encryption. The Department of Justice has objected to efforts by Facebook to require end-to – end encryption through its services.

Child safety advocates have warned that predators use Zoom — along with other live video platforms — to live stream abuse, with one federal prosecutor dubbing it the “Netflix of child pornography.” Strong encryption would probably make it more difficult for moderators and police to find that content, but it also provides additional protection for people who are discussing sensitive information or who are on it. American Civil Liberties Union fellow Jon Callas described Zoom ‘s decision as a way to “get rid of the riff-raff” which connects anonymously to free calls.

Yuan stressed that encryption also requires practical trade-offs, because people can not do things like dialing into an encrypted phone call. So it’s likely that even a lot of business clients will not use it all the time. Yet his remarks do emphasize that having law enforcement in the loop is a focus for Zoom.

Zoom expanded in a statement on the strategy. ” 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,” a spokeswoman told the Verge. ” 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 identity.”

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