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Zoom backs down and adds E2E encryption for free and paid users

The video conferencing tool Zoom has brought end-to-end encryption for users of its free and paid service.

That follows criticism of its previous unwillingness to provide basic security and privacy protections for users who aren’t forking out for the service.

The company is now rolling out the E2EE feature for the Mac and PC desktop clients as well as the Android app. The feature will come to iOS once Apple has approved the update.

Last week, the company bucked its previous insistence that it would not bestow the feature on users of the free service. As recently as this summer it said only those paying to use the service for online meetings.

In a press release on Tuesday the company patted itself on the back for bringing end-to-end encryption to all users within six months.

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For now there are some catches to enabling E2EE. There’ll be no opportunity to use live transcription or cloud recordings on encrypted calls, for example. The browser version will also be incompatible with encrypted calls, the company says.

Back in June the company sparked outrage by admitting it wasn’t planning on offering the protection to non-paying customers, mainly so they could rat them out to the authorities if necessary. In an earnings call this summer, CEO Eric Yuan said: “Free users — for sure we don’t want to give [them] that, because we also want to work together with the FBI, with local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for a bad purpose.”

Zoom has enjoyed a spectacular surge in popularity since the beginning of the pandemic as more and more people are working and schooling from home. However, it has been blighted by a myriad of security and privacy issues, including the unpleasant phenomenon of Zoombombing, which hasn’t always been safe for work, or safe for anything else.