Paul Butler: Zoom!

Paul Butler is a Santa Clarita resident and a client partner with Newleaf Training and Development of Valencia (newleaftd.com). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Signal newspaper. For questions or comments, email Butler at [email protected]
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What’s all this with Zoom?

While so many of us at work and at home are talking about Zoom, some of you might be wondering what Zoom even is. As the locals say, here’s the “4-1-1” about Zoom:

Zoom may only have become a household name since the globe became housebound, but in fact its popularity has been growing for several years. When it debuted on the stock market last year, it was already valued at $15 billion and that has now risen to $38.5 billion.

Started in 2011 by Chinese software engineer Eric Yuan, who emigrated from China to Silicon Valley at the age of 27, Zoom has quietly overtaken rivals such as Skype and Microsoft Teams, in part because of some pretty simple features.

It is free for anyone to use, but its basic package has a 40-minute meeting limit for more than three participants, something it has just lifted in the present pandemic.

50M downloads

It has been downloaded more than 50 million times on the Google app store alone as a global lockdown sends people in desperate search of digital ways to stay in touch with work colleagues, friends and family.

So, are there any privacy concerns?

Zoom does collect large amounts of data in order to analyze its service and The Electronic Frontier Foundation has compiled a list of its privacy issues:

The host of a Zoom call has the capacity to monitor the activities of attendees while screen-sharing.

If a user records any calls via Zoom, administrators can access the contents.

During any meeting that has occurred or is in progress, administrators can see the operating system, IP address, location data and device information of each participant.

Despite these warnings, people generally seem happy to share more and more aspects of their life on the app, including some who have given away rather more than they intended!

A widely shared video on social media shows a woman in a business conference forgetting that her colleagues can see her and going to the bathroom mid-meeting while the rest of her team look on in bewildered embarrassment.

‘Zoom-bombing’

Other breaches of etiquette include “zoom-bombing,” a word surely set to take its place alongside self-isolation in post-virus dictionaries. This problem happens if access to details of a meeting are shared publicly and the host fails to set screen-sharing to “host only.”

Meeting hosts should also disable “file transfer” to prevent any malware being shared, said experts.

What’s my personal conclusion? In our business, we have a Zoom “Plus” account, which we pay about $120 a year for. We don’t use the free Zoom account. We have diligently reviewed the security settings to protect ourselves, our clients and our friends the best we can, while using this cloud-based platform.

We ensure we always know who the “host” is for the meeting and who the “administrator” is. When we’re hosting a meeting, we change the setting so only the host or co-host can share information on the screen unless we give permission during the meeting. We haven’t yet, but we also know we can set a password as an extra security step for someone to come into our meeting.

How to access

If you’re going to give Zoom a try you don’t need to download any software if you’re accessing someone else’s Zoom over your desktop or laptop. If you are accessing a Zoom invite via your smartphone or tablet, you will need to download the free Zoom app. Oh, and by the way, if you use Microsoft Edge as your browser, you’ll need to download the free software to enable Zoom to work for you.

I am no computer security expert but I like Zoom and cannot give any assurances, but after 12 months or so, I’ve not had any issues with it and nor have our clients — most of whom are national and global organizations who are intensely security-conscious. In these strange days of isolation, I feel very grateful we have these platforms to stay connected for both business and personal relationships.

Source: In part, this article is citing extracts from a report by the BBC titled: “Coronavirus: Zoom is in everyone’s living room — how safe is it?” (https://bbc.in/2X9C96a)

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