The application Zoom, an online video conferencing app, has gained in popularity amid the coronavirus outbreak. As workers and students increasingly work from home, Zoom has seen a sharp increase in the number of users on their app. However, recent lawsuits have sparked concern amongst its users over the safety of the application.
On Wednesday, April 8th, Zoom was sued and accused of covering up its security flaws. According to CBS, Michael Drieu, a shareholder of Zoom, accused the company of overselling its privacy standards and failing to disclose that their calls were not “end-to-end encrypted.” End-to-end encryption is a system of communication where a third party does not have access or means to decrypt messages. Due to late March’s increase in users, Zoom’s stock price hit a high of $159.56 per share and has fallen nearly 28% since the lawsuit. These lawsuits have raised tremendous concern from a large population who have been using the app as a means of communicating for both their occupation and their social life. As of April 6th, the New York Department of Education has advised principals not to use Zoom, after numerous privacy concerns have arisen. The Department of Education has recommended that schools use services through Google or Microsoft as an alternative.
While countless schools have made the switch to a more secure server, Grace Church School has made alterations to secure the privacy of our students and teachers. As part of a mass email sent to parents, Mr. Nichols, Chief Communications Officer, wrote, “After a thorough review of Zoom’s policies and our practices and safeguards, we have decided that our teachers can continue to safely use Zoom as part of our distance learning plan.” Mr. Nichols also addressed the initiatives that Grace has taken to ensure the privacy of our students and faculty, in contrast to most New York City schools. Grace has purchased a licensed institutional account; this costly measure includes additional security features, which are not available with free accounts.
In addition, Grace has also adopted the usage of ‘waiting rooms.’ This function allows teachers to choose who is admitted into a class. This measure will prevent strangers from being admitted into our classrooms. Dr. Herndon, Chief Technology Officer, shared his thoughts regarding Zoom, “Right now, our goal is to find the right balance for making Zoom secure and trustworthy for everyone in our community, without requiring so many levels of authentication that no one wants to use it.” Grace has continued usage of the app, and seems to be unconcerned with the credibility of the application. Although, are these measures enough? It does seem a bit bold to overrule the Department of Education’s recommendation. Students have shared that they still do not feel 100% comfortable continuing our usage of the application. Are we better off utilizing Google or Microsoft? Potentially.