Zoom Announces an Official Settlement with the FTC Over False Encryption Claims

The Federal Trade Commission has announced an official settlement with video conferencing platform Zoom over false claims relating to Zoom’s security measures made earlier this year.

As explained by the FTC:

“Since at least 2016, Zoom misled users by touting that it offered “end-to-end, 256-bit encryption” to secure users’ communications, when in fact it provided a lower level of security. End-to-end encryption is a method of securing communications so that only the sender and recipient(s) – and no other person, not even the platform provider – can read the content. In reality, the FTC alleges, Zoom maintained the cryptographic keys that could allow Zoom to access the content of its customers’ meetings, and secured its Zoom Meetings, in part, with a lower level of encryption than promised.”

This came to a head back in April when Time Magazine reported that Chinese operatives were using Zoom to spy on foreign citizens, amid the rising use of the video platform at the peak of the pandemic. Zoom has also been accused of censoring discussions, in line with Chinese Government edict, and has been forced to deal with several significant security issues, including vulnerabilities in its code. The latter prompted the FBI to issue an official warning to people using the platform at one stage.

In response, Zoom has worked hard to beef up its security measures, and revise its approach to non-Chinese users.

It announced a new Security Council to oversee its efforts in April, and last month, it finally launched its new end-to-end encryption model, which will eventually be made available to all users.

When Zoom first announced its new E2E encryption process, it initially said that only paid users would have access to the option, but it revised its stance shortly after, with all users set to get access the additional security measures.

Given this, Zoom is already well on its way to meeting these new FTC requirements – and with the platform now being used by more than 200 million people, it makes sense for Zoom to step-up its efforts and align with requirements.

And Zoom may need to cash in while it can – according to CNBC, shares in Zoom fell 16% today on news from Pfizer that its coronavirus vaccine candidate “showed a 90% efficacy rate in preventing infections during a late-stage trial”.

Definitely, you would expect Zoom usage to take a hit once a vaccine is available, and the COVID-19 lockdowns come to an end. But can it maintain its position as a leading video platform, and continue to grow as people migrate back to the office?

We’ll have to wait and see.