Information Technology

Zoom reaches $85 million settlement over user privacy and Zoombombing

Zoom Video Communications has agreed to pay $85 million compensation for settlement of a lawsuit claiming violation of users’ privacy rights and disruption due to Zoombombing. The video conferencing giant will also bolster its security practices. A lawsuit accused the company of violating users’ privacy rights by sharing personal data with Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn. The lawsuit also accused Zoom of letting hackers disrupt meetings via ‘Zoombombing’, Reuters reported.

Zoombombing is when outsiders hijack Zoom meetings and display pornography, use racist language or post other disturbing content. A preliminary settlement filed on Saturday afternoon requires approval by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.

What improved security measures will be taken by Zoom?

Zoom subscribers in the proposed class action would be eligible for 15% refunds on their core subscription or $25 whichever is higher. Others could receive up to $15.

Zoom agreed to strengthen its security measures including alerting users when meeting hosts or other participants use third-party apps in meetings and providing specialized training to employees on privacy and data handling.

The company however denied any wrongdoing on their part in agreeing to settle. It said in a statement, “The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us.”

Though Zoom collected about $1.3 billion in Zoom meetings subscriptions from class members. The plaintiffs’ lawyer called the $85 million settlement reasonable given the litigation risks. The plaintiff however intends to seek up to $21.25 million for legal fees.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act

Judge Lucy Koh said Zoom was “mostly” immune for Zoombombing under section 230 of the Federal Communications Decency Act.

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act was passed in 1996. Similar to the intermediary immunity in India, it provides immunity to internet companies for user-shared content on their websites.

The Section reads as “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”

This means that online companies, including social media platforms, are not liable for content that users share on their websites. In addition, the law also states that private companies have the right to remove content that violates their guidelines and values.

However, the Section has attracted criticism recently. The present President of the USA  Joe Biden has publicly proposed repealing Section 230 entirely.

Covid-19 proved to be beneficial for Zoom

Ever since the Covid-19 pandemic started and everyone is working from home be it educational institutions or Corporate offices, the reliance on platforms like Zoom has increased manifold. This has led to an increased customer base for Zoom. Its customer base has grown almost sixfold as more people are forced to work from home.

The company had 497,000 customers with more than 10 employees in April 2021 compared to 81,900 in January 2020. The company said its user growth could decline as more people are getting vaccinated and are returning to work or school in person.

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Pukhraj Biala

I am an undergraduate student at Symbiosis Law school, NOIDA, pursuing B.A.LL.B. I am a problem solver who believes in reaching to a conclusion by weighing all the options and identifying the best possible one. I find Technology Laws quite fascinating and I continue to follow and learn the subject.

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