Zoom became a household name overnight as the global pandemic forced millions to work and socialise from home virtually overnight. Zoom allows users to make calls to friends, family and co-workers for free, although there is a time limit for free account.
But now its massive popularity has hit a pretty major snag.
The US-based company has been hit by a class action lawsuit that could put a colossal dent in its pandemic profits. A group of customers took Zoom to court over claims it shared its users’ personal data and lied about offering end-to-end encryption.
As a result of a settlement reached in a Californian court this weekend, Zoom could now have to shell out as much as $85 million (£61m) in compensation and legal fees. Zoom subscribers included in the class action may now get a payout.
Sadly, it won’t be enough to pack in the day job. If the settlement is confirmed, subscribers can expect a 15percent refund on their subscription or $25 (£18), whichever is larger. All other users could get roughly $15 (£11). But the real winners are the plaintiffs’ lawyers, who are demanding a whopping $21.25 million in legal fees. Ouch.
At the heart of the lawsuit are claims Zoom shared personal data with Facebook, Google, and LinkedIn, breaching users’ privacy. When users logged on using Facebook, Zoom would notify the social network and share information to help it target ads. As of April last year, this is no longer happening.
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But lawyers also argued that the company failed to do enough to stop “Zoom-bombing”, where trolls crash private meetings and share graphic content. Before Zoom tightened up its security, this led to several disturbing incidents around the world – including anti-Semites hijacking synagogue services and porn being shared in virtual classrooms.
Speaking to Reuters, a Zoom spokesperson denied any wrongdoing in paying out the settlement. It added: “The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us.”
After its high-profile security issues, Zoom bought a secure messaging service called Keybase in May 2020 to enable it to use end-to-end encryption on most of its calls.
The company has agreed to further beef up its security as a result of the lawsuit. Users will be notified when hosts use third-party apps in meetings, and all its employees will get extra training on privacy issues.