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Published August 1, 2020 Updated September 20, 2021
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Avoid Zoom

Overview

Even before the Coronavirus pandemic, which has made video conferencing tools all the more important, Zoom was a rising star in the field. Zoom provided solutions for common collaboration problems with a lot of useful features, including surprisingly good video and audio despite multiple attendees having various levels of bandwidth in the conversation. Previously, we were limited to Google Meet, Slack Video, Webex, GoToMeeting, etc., all of which were various aspects of awful, and having Zoom on the scene showed promise of a better experience.

By early 2019, though, reports emerged of disturbing conduct by Zoom as a company, casting doubt on the integrity of their software offering as a whole. By mid-2019, these disturbances were exposed as shocking displays of neglect and disregard for customer security — to a point where Apple had to patch macOS due to shady code installed by the Zoom installer. Around this time, I choose to avoid Zoom and removed it from the macOS Configuration project. I’ve not gone back, despite the ubiquity of platform in the time of Coronavirus.

Perhaps the long tail of a company’s trajectory and practices is often forgotten in an age when we are constantly bombarded with information, but this article is meant to put Zoom’s historic misconduct back into perspective and explain why I think more people should be avoiding the platform all together.

Evidence

The following spans many month’s worth of articles I’ve collected about Zoom’s disturbing track record. While mostly listed in chronological order, you’ll want to read through each of these to paint the picture of Zoom’s past behavior and what that’s exposed about their underlying ethics. Spoiler Alert: Zoom hasn’t substantially improved since these issues arose and I don’t expect their tactics to change anytime soon.

From numerous security vulnerabilities to complying with the Chinese authoritarian regime, the severity of these issues should at least tempt you to avoid using Zoom — especially in regards to aiding China, which is exacting cultural genocide of the Uyghurs. I’ve been to Xinjiang, met the Uyghurs, eaten with them, browsed through their bazaars, etc. They don’t deserve this kind of treatment and we can do our part by not funding companies that diminish their value.

In addition to the above, I find Zoom’s lack of regard for the people they are helping to communicate more effectively very disconcerting. Video conferencing is particularly sensitive in nature and I would think that customer security would be a top priority in Zoom’s software offering. Instead, Zoom is prioritizing capturing the market as quickly as possible and at any cost. I understand the need for growth but you can achieve this without sacrificing those you serve.

Tangential Concerns

If you, too, want to avoid the ethical mess that is Zoom and happen to be using Keybase, be aware they have joined Zoom. You’ll want to reconsider your options in this space. I’d recommend using 1Password, Bitwarden, or others.

Alternatives

Should you be looking for alternatives to Zoom — which I hope you are — I would suggest reading my video conferencing article for details.

Conclusion

As an individual, switching to an alternative solution is fairly trivial. As a company, I realize introducing this kind of change in the midst of a busy work schedule is not as swift an option. Even more so with large teams. If nothing else, initiating a discussion around Zoom’s reckless disregard for security might be enough to get the ball rolling and even lead to insights on how communication could be improved in general.

I’ve managed to avoid using Zoom since removing their software offering entirely. When scheduling meetings with others, if they try to send me a Zoom link, I’ll suggest alternatives. Unfortunately, I have encountered some fiery pushback from some in various social channels and haven’t been able to convince my local meetups — yet — to switch to different software. Therefore, I am no longer able to attend these meetups until more people take a stand against Zoom’s behavior.

Your mileage may vary with that kind of zero-tolerance approach. Still, I’d rather fight for a future that encourages ethical behavior and prioritizes people ahead of any capitalistic gain. I hope you agree and vote by not spending money on companies or software that promote these practices. We can make a difference, little by little!