The popular video conferencing platform, Zoom is being sued in California for allegedly giving users’ personal data to outside companies including Facebook, without fully disclosing to its customers that they were doing this. The scrutiny is not just in California, in light of Zoom’s increased popularity for work, school and socializing while people have sheltered in place and been quarantined, New York’s Attorney General is investigating the teleconferencing company’s security practices during this new era of the stay-at-home movement that the coronavirus pandemic has created.
In the California lawsuit filed on March 30, it is alleged that Zoom’s software reported to Facebook whenever a Zoom user logged on for a conference call. Zoom would then the give Facebook the user’s customer information which includes the kind of device and its model the person used to access Zoom as well as the device’s unique advertising identifier.
The lawsuit goes on with allegations that Zoom’s unique advertising identifier allows companies to target the user with advertisements and this information is sent to Facebook even if the Zoom user does not have a Facebook account.
Zoom officials have since acknowledged its data sharing in blog posts and say that they have changed the practice since they were made aware of it the previous week. Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan said that they learned about the Facebook data sharing last week after the news outlet Vice Media gave a detailed report on the practice. He said that the sharing began after Zoom gave users the option of logging on via a Facebook Software Development KIT, SDK.
In a blog post, Yuan said, “Our customers’ privacy is incredibly important to us, and therefore we decided to remove the Facebook SDK in our [Apple-based] client and have reconfigured the feature so that users will still be able to log in with Facebook via their browser.”
Contrary to what Aparna Bawa, Zoom’s chief legal officer said in a blog post that Zoom, “has never sold user data in the past and has no intention of selling users’ data going forward,” the lawsuit alleges that Zoom was paid for sharing user data but court documents don’t disclose how much it claims they received.
While many large and small U.S. companies have gone under or are just barely scraping by during the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom’s business has been booming. People have been using it from home in response to public health officials requests for social distancing and shelter-at-home practices.for work, school and for socializing.