The Privacy Implications of Zoom’s New Terms of Service Are Scary

Zoom updated its terms and conditions today, and it's a doozy. Effective today, Monday, 7th August, establishes the video platform's right to use customer data to train its AI models, and generally do as they wish with your data!

Zoom updated its terms and conditions today, and it’s a doozy. Effective today, Monday, 7th August, establishes the video platform’s right to use customer data to train its AI models, and generally do as they wish with your data. 

Data is the lifeblood of AI. Without data, AI algorithms cannot learn and improve. The more data an AI algorithm has to learn from, the better it will perform. This is why products like Zoom that are training AI engines are constantly collecting and storing data about our online activity, shopping habits, social media posts, and even physical movements.

Sections 10.2 and 10.4 of their terms establish Zoom’s rights to compile and utilize “Service Generated Data,” which is any telemetry data, product usage data, diagnostic data, and similar content or data that Zoom collects in connection with users’ use of their services or software. In other words everything you say and do on a meeting or webinar is now free for Zoom to do with as they please.

The second update secures the rights for “perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license” to redistribute, publish, access, use, store, transmit, review, disclose, preserve, extract, modify, reproduce, share, use, display, copy, distribute, translate, transcribe, create derivative works, and process Customer Content.

Consider just one of these items “create derivative works”. It means they could (should they choose) create a product from learning about it through your meeting and sell that.

In summary, this means they are using the content of your calls to train an AI engine, and they can disclose, publish and profit from the content of your calls.

We highly recommend you reconsider your use of Zoom immediately. We use Google Meet as a standard in our business. This not only reduces the switching cost (the mental load required to click something else plus the time for another program to load), but we also don’t spend any more hard earned on meeting software as it’s a part of our Google Workspace subscription.

This data collection is a privacy concern. If AI companies are not careful with our data, they could use it to steal our IP, target us with ads, or manipulate our behaviour. This is why you must be cautious about what tools you use. If you are uncomfortable with a company collecting your data for any purpose, you should avoid using their products or services.

Note these new terms with Zoom are not optional. No opt-out clause is based on your user level or how much you pay.

Hopefully, there will be a significant backlash against Zoom for this sweeping change in their favour to be more considerate of their users’ privacy. In the meantime, this is a great opportunity to evaluate your online meeting tools and look at Google Meet or Microsoft Teams.

Video Transcript

Hi there. In today’s video, we are going to talk about a critical change to Zoom’s terms of service. This came into effect on August 7th, 2023, and it puts all of your data, everything you say at Zoom, at risk. Data security across their organization is now a big concern for everybody. The data that you hold about your customers, but also the services that you use and what you say on them. And with the rise of ai, that data is becoming increasingly valuable to organizations so that they can help train their engines in order to deliver other smarter, cooler, fancier products to you that help save you time. However, there’s gotta be a line in that. And today what we’ve seen is Zoom have updated their terms of service.
So that was yesterday for me, but today for most of the folks in the USA so let’s have a look at exactly what it is they’ve changed. This is Zoom’s terms of service page and as you can see, it was updated August 7th, 2023. We’re gonna have a look at a couple of key points in this that I think are kind of scary and might make you think. In fact, I absolutely recommend you stop using Zoom immediately because of this. So we’re gonna look first at and for the word artificial intelligence. Okay? Now you’re gonna see that this is coming up under clause 10.2 service generated data and a consent to use. Now, I am not a lawyer by any stretch of the imagination, but again, I’m just gonna highlight the bit that I think is kind of scary here.
In terms of what they are granting themselves the right for. So you consent to Zoom’s access, use collection, creation, modification, distribution, processing, sharing, maintenance and storage of service generated data for any purpose to the extent and in the manner permitted under applicable law. This including for the purpose of product and service development, marketing, analytics, quality insurance, machine learning, or artificial intelligence, including for the purposes of training and tuning algorithms or models. Okay? So what they’re saying there is essentially if you record a call or you are using Zoom, we are going to listen and use that information in order to train our AI models. Now we’ve seen various examples of where those AI models have had information put into them that are only for that company. and I’ll put one up on screen here. This was the Samsung engineers that started using chat G P T by putting in some of the

Company IP into it, but not realizing that that feeds the public engine and then other people and competitors then had access to that IP as you can tell, not a good thing. so that may well happen inside of Zoom here as well. You just don’t know at this point in time where that might happen. So that’s the first thing to be aware of. The second thing is the license agreement for the data that you are putting in. Okay, so you agree to Grant and hereby grant a you hit agree to grant and hereby grant, they you use Grant twice, (Hmm, lawyers ) Zoom a perpetual worldwide non-exclusive royalty-free sublicensees and transferable license to redistribute, publish, import access, use store transmit, review, disclose, preserve, extract. You get the idea lots and lots of words, scary bit here. Create derivative works and process customer content and to perform all acts with respect to the customer content.

I’m gonna let that sink in for a sec. Alright, create derivative works. This one’s the scary, one of the scary ones for me, but probably the scariest. Now this means that they can take your content, they can repurpose your content, and they can create a derivative work from it. And that might be something that they put out into the world and they then profit from. That is YOUR IP. That is YOUR conversation that you are having with yourself, your team, or even in a webinar with your customers. And I know you go to great lengths to protect that information. So just be aware this is what they are doing. they are using it as maybe necessary to provide services to you. Number two is for the purpose of product and service development, marketing, analytics, quality assurance, machine learning, artificial intelligence, training, testing, improvements of services or other or where’s that last bit or any combination thereof.
And three, any other purpose relating, relating to any use or other permissions in accordance with 10.3, which is the section we’ve just talked about. Okay, so any, again, it is this perpetual, irrevocable, worldwide non-exclusive royalty free wording here. That means that they are listening and using everything that you put into Zoom.
So there’s a couple things that I’d suggest you do. The first one is that you stop using Zoom for team meetings. If you are a Google Workspace subscriber, start using Google Meet – a) you don’t have to install something and have to faff around when you’re trying to join meetings. Much easier reduces that mental cost for your team. You just sign in, you click on the Google Meet button in your calendar pops Google Meet in your browser. And once you’ve given your browser rights, you never have to do anything again, everything just works. Same with the app on mobile. So that’s the summary of the changes that have happened today in Google Meet. if that wasn’t enough for you,

I’m gonna remind you that back in 2022, so only last year Zoom also had a raft of security issues that were discovered and brought out into the public domain. They’ve obviously been working on fixing those. but this is just informing you that their reputation around this stuff is not actually all that crash hot. and it’s probably time to reconsider if you can stop using Zoom or at least reduce the number of licenses. So I acknowledge that you can use Zoom to do webinars, for example, and meetings of over a thousand people, right? Those are not ideal in Google Meet. You can’t do meetings of over a thousand people. You have to change plans and all sorts of stuff, but if you’re gonna do that, just use one Zoom account for one user the person that hosts those, right?

You don’t have to license everybody in your business into Zoom and having a free account and you know what the phrase is, “if it’s free, you are the product”. So using a free Zoom account is highly discouraged as well. So if you have access to Google Meet, go use that. if you’re on the Microsoft platform, go use teams as part of your Microsoft subscription. Okay? but again, move away from Zoom. Thanks very much for watching. If you found this video useful, please like and subscribe below. We’re gonna be talking a lot more about data security and cyber hygiene over the coming weeks and months. It’s a really important topic and I look forward to seeing you soon.

Duncan Isaksen-Loxton

Educated as a web developer, with over 20 years of internet based work and experience, Duncan is a Google Workspace Certified Collaboration Engineer and a WordPress expert.
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