Zoom to stump up $85M for zoombombing and user privacy

Video conferencing specialist agrees to a settlement, but denies wrongdoing.

Anne Morris, Contributing Editor, Light Reading

August 2, 2021

4 Min Read
Zoom to stump up $85M for zoombombing and user privacy

There is one side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic that is no doubt of interest to etymologists around the world: the creation of a whole new vocabulary related to the pandemic itself, as well as to measures that allow us to continue working and socializing.

For example, the German penchant for creating complex compound nouns has apparently gone into overdrive, with the emergence of terms such as Abstandsbier – a socially distanced beer with friends – and Impfneid (vaccine envy).

Germans are also said to have come up with overzoomed, which probably needs no explanation. Speaking of Zoom, a more unfortunate term that has also come to the fore is "zoombombing."

Figure 1: Private lives: Zoom has finally settled the pending legal action over hackers zoombombing private calls. (Source: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash) Private lives: Zoom has finally settled the pending legal action over hackers zoombombing private calls.
(Source: Chris Montgomery on Unsplash)

As most of us now know, this refers to the disruption of Zoom video calls by hackers. Reuters notes that outsiders have been able to hijack Zoom meetings and display pornography, use racist language or post other disturbing content. In March 2020, the FBI said it was investigating this phenomenon.

Fast forward to August 2021, and Zoom has finally agreed to pay US$85 million and enhance its security practices to settle a lawsuit claiming it violated users' privacy rights by sharing personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, and letting hackers disrupt Zoom meetings.

Reuters reported that a preliminary settlement filed on Saturday afternoon still requires approval by US District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California. According to the settlement, subscribers in the proposed class action would be eligible for 15% refunds on their core subscriptions or $25, whichever is larger, while others could receive up to $15.

Other points worth noting are that Zoom has denied wrongdoing, saying: "The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us."

According to Reuters, Koh also said Zoom was "mostly" immune to Zoombombing under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from liability over user content.

Zoom, zoom

Despite the bad publicity around privacy, Zoom is still doing pretty well. In the three months to April 30, revenue increased 191% to $956 million, which was 5% ahead of analysts' predictions. The big question is: How well will the company cope when people return to their offices and become less reliant on video conferencing software?

What’s more, Zoom faces considerable competition in the market. For example, the likes of Microsoft Teams and Cisco Webex provide business-grade video conferencing services, and Facebook offers Workplace by Facebook, an enterprise collaboration platform.

Want to know more about the cloud? Check out our dedicated cloud-native networks and NFV content channel here on
Light Reading.

Zoom has been taking steps for a post-pandemic world. For example, in July it spent $14.7 billion on buying cloud call center operator Five9, which will sit alongside Zoom Phone and Zoom Rooms, its cloud-calling and conference-hosting suite.

As well as Zoom's largest acquisition to date, it was its fourth since the global pandemic began. In May 2020, Zoom bought secure messaging and file-sharing company Keybase Financial Group to improve its encryption offerings.

Then in March, Zoom was part of a group acquiring a minority share in the software company Assembled. In June, it agreed to buy a German translation startup, kites (for Karlsruhe Information Technology Solutions).

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Anne Morris

Contributing Editor, Light Reading

Anne Morris is a freelance journalist, editor and translator. She has been working in the telecommunications sector since 1996, when she joined the London-based team of Communications Week International as copy editor. Over the years she held the editor position at Total Telecom Online and Total Tele-com Magazine, eventually leaving to go freelance in 2010. Now living in France, she writes for a number of titles and also provides research work for analyst companies.

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