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Zoom just gave free users frightening news

  • June 03, 2020

If you pay, you and your crime syndicate can have a nice, socially distanced chat.

Who wouldn’t want to be Zoom?

It’s become a verb as well as a familiar brand name. It’s become the default way to hold meetings, dinner parties, even birthday parties with ribald dancers. It’s just announced stellar results.

Zoom did, though, have a spot of bother with security. The feeling was that there really wasn’t much security at all.

The company explained it was built for business, rather than everyday human use and suddenly here were all these ordinary humans, sheltering and working at home. But it leaped to address the security issues with juvenile alacrity.

This was all so impressive. Why, I’ve enjoyed so many Zoom calls now and felt entirely at ease.

Until, that is, I read a line uttered by Zoom CEO Eric Yuan on Tuesday’s triumphant earnings call with analysts. According to Bloomberg, he said that not every user will have their Zoom calls encrypted — a service that’s coming soon.

Specifically, those left hanging in the internet’s wind will be those who don’t pay.

Yuan explained: “Free users for sure we don’t want to give that [encryption] because we also want to work together with FBI, with local law enforcement in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.”

It’s a tantalizing logic.

Could it really be that those with bad intentions are so tight-fisted that they won’t pay to have a Zoom account? Could it be that only the free people are a threat? (I fear some in America do believe that.)

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Perhaps I’ve watched too many criminal dramas and read too many Norwegian police procedurals, but I fancy those using Zoom for nefarious purposes might find ways to ensure those purposes are kept private via encryption. By, you know, paying — even if it’s with funny money.

Which sends me into a pit of pained pragmatism.

It couldn’t be, could it, that not offering encryption at the free level is an excellent way to get customers to give Zoom money? Yes, even the criminally minded sorts.

Yuan himself admitted that Zoom had enjoyed an “unprecedented number of free participants.” If you can merely scare — I’m sorry, I mean convert — a fraction of these unprecedented free people to pay a little for encryption, your profits might reach, well, unprecedented levels.

Business can be so ugly some times.

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