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Zoom’s security controversies triggered a sharp fall in use

Following a meteoric rise during the early stages of the coronavirus lockdown, Zoom’s popularity has taken a major hit, a new report has found.

The video-conferencing app shot to prominence when social distancing measures came into effect around the world, largely because it allows you to video chat with up to 100 people for up to 40 minutes without paying a penny.

However, in late March and early April, a series of major issues emerged, and Zoom came under heavy fire.

Related: Zoom vs Google Meet

In its new Covid-19 Global Internet Phenomena report, which analyses internet traffic around the world during the coronavirus crisis, Sandvine recorded a sudden downturn in Zoom use from March 27 onwards.

“As the stay-at-home orders began to come worldwide, Zoom traffic multiplied dramatically, scaling to orders of magnitude higher as Zoom gained popularity,” the report reads. “It grew as fast as some of the most viral applications that we have seen in the Phenomena reports of the past, including games like Pokemon Go.

“And then security issues began to hit the application. Zoom-bombing became a thing that caused many uncomfortable incidents in school sessions and many school districts banned Zoom. Many enterprises became concerned that their proprietary information could be leaked through covert meeting attendance and restricted the use of Zoom.”

Zoombombing was one of several points of concern.

Around the same time it also emerged that Zoom had falsely been claiming that Zoom video meetings were end-to-end encrypted, which means that if it was to be compelled to, Zoom would have the ability to hand over the content of users’ video calls to governmental authorities or law enforcement.

Despite warnings of “security implications” from the Ministry of Defence, which had banned its staff from using the software, Boris Johnson had continued to use Zoom for cabinet meetings.

The iOS version of the Zoom app was also found to have been sending analytical data to Facebook without users’ consent.

In early April, Zoom made a pledge to clean up its image, and the company has since stopped secretly shovelling users’ data to Facebook, and introduced tighter meeting controls to try to ward off Zoombombers.

However, other firms are now trying to capitalise on Zoom’s newfound infamy. WhatsApp video calls are end-to-end encrypted, and the app recently doubled its video call limit to eight people. Google, meanwhile, is currently rolling out a new free tier for Google Meet, which will initially let you video call with up to 100 people for up to 24 hours.

Related: How to use Google Meet for free

“Regardless of the fact they had a drop, the level of traffic being experienced with Zoom is still orders of magnitude higher than it was before this started,” said Cam Cullen, Sandvine’s vice president of marketing, during a call. “I actually think they’re going to come out of this with a better application than they went into it with.”

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