Zoom Calls Aren't as Private as You May Think. Here's What You Should Know.

If you're starting to use Zoom, it makes sense to look at the privacy issues from two perspectives. The first thing to understand is what information Zoom itself can collect, and what it can do with the information. Then there's the information that the meeting host gets and how itcan be shared. Individuals can take some measures to safeguard their privacy by changing the way they use the service. But Consumer Reports' advocates say that Zoom should also improve the platform's privacy practices.

Zoom's privacy policyis similar to many digital platforms', claiming the right to collect and store personal data, and share it with third parties such as advertisers.

In Zoom's case, that extends to what the company calls customer content, or "the content contained in cloud recordings, and instant messages, files, whiteboards ... shared while using the service."

Videos aren't off-limits, according to the document, and neither are transcripts that can be generated automatically, the documents you share on your screen, or the names of everyone on a call. (The privacy policy posted online was updated over the weekend but backdated to Wednesday, March 18.)

Could your instant messages and videos be used to target advertising campaigns or develop a facial recognition algorithm, like videos collected by other tech companies? That's probably not what people are expecting when they contact a therapist, hold a business meeting, or have a job interview using Zoom.

We reached out to the company for comment on its privacy practices. It acknowledged receiving our questions in an e-mail but hasn't provided answers yet.

"Zoom isn't necessarily doing anything users would object to" with the data, says Bill Fitzgerald, a Consumer Reports privacy researcher who analyzed the company's policies. "But their terms of use give them a whole lot of leeway to collect information and share it, both now and in the future." (Consumer Reports is a Zoom client, using the service for some company-wide meetings.) "Zoom should update their terms to ensure that data collected during meetings from any participant or host is explicitly excluded from any advertising or marketing use, and that they don't view and tag video footage to train AI for facial or object recognition," says Justin Brookman, director of privacy and technology policy at Consumer Reports.

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