States probe Zoom for possible privacy violations after lawmakers’ calls are Zoombombed

Eric Yuan, founder and chief executive officer of Zoom Video Communications Inc., speaks during the BoxWorks 2019 Conference at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019.

Bloomberg

At least three states are probing Zoom for potential privacy violations after calls with government officials fell victim to “zoombombing,” Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced Friday. 

Attorneys general for New York and Florida have joined the effort, Tong said, adding it would be up to other states to disclose their involvement. He declined to say how many states are participating. 

The officials are seeking to understand Zoom’s privacy practices and how it protects users. Tong fell victim to so-called zoombombing earlier this week after a Zoom forum he held with Connecticut Lieutenant Governor Susan Bysiewicz about the Census was flooded with profane messages in the chat box.

The state-led investigation is a clear signal of mounting regulatory pressure on Zoom, which was recently thrust into a far more visible role as social distancing measures forced people to connect over video conferencing platforms. Zoom went public less than a year ago as a rare profitable tech company. As the stock market has buckled in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has been one of the few stocks to see growth.

But with the additional users came new problems and scrutiny. Zoom was developed as an enterprise communications tool and has suddenly become shrouded in the issues of a consumer tech company. On Wednesday, CEO Eric Yuan said in a blog post that the product was not designed “with the  foresight that, in a matter of weeks, every person in the world would suddenly be working, studying, and socializing from home.”

The company said it’s posted information on how to set up features that can prevent zoombombing, updated its privacy policy to be more transparent about the data it collects and removed Facebook code that had been sending information to the platform. The company plans to enhance its bug bounty program and will have third-party experts review potential security issues for consumer users.

In the midst of the coronavirus crisis, Tong said on a call with reporters Friday, “we rely on Zoom, Facebook, Skype, Microsoft Teams and we need these communication platforms to be safe and accessible for everybody.”

While this week was Tong’s first experience being zoombombed, Bysiewicz said it’s happened to her a handful of other times.

“It’s just been incredibly frustrating to have to watch this hateful and bullying stuff going down on the side of the screen,” she said on the press call.

Bysiewicz said she asked U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham to work with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to stop zoombombing. According to Bysiewicz, Durham said he would ask his cyber division if they’ve begun to look into the issue. 

Bysiewicz said her office had signed up for a one month subscription with Zoom, but she’s now asked her chief of staff to explore other options.

Zoom did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the probe. Shares of Zoom closed up just above 5% on Friday.

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WATCH: Why the U.S. government is questioning your online privacy

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