BIG BROTHER: Popular Tele-Conference Company Zoom Hands Over Personal Data to Facebook

Zoom, a company that offers a popular video conferencing app that is taking off due to the coronavirus shutdown, is funneling the personal data of its users over to Facebook, as the service is weak on protecting the privacy rights of its customers.

VICE Motherboard analyzed Zoom’s iOS app for cell phones and determined that it was sending information to Facebook. This is because of Zoom’s use of Facebook’s software development kits (SDK) in order to improve the features on the app. This is a common way that Facebook funnels data from other apps into their systems to bolster their monopoly in the tech sector.

“That’s shocking. There is nothing in the privacy policy that addresses that,” said Pat Walshe, an activist from Privacy Matters who has analyzed Zoom’s privacy policy, to VICE reporters on Twitter.

Zoom users are likely blissfully unaware of the app’s data-sharing agreement with Facebook. Facebook may be collecting data from individuals who do not even use their software, showing how the monolithic corporation’s tentacles are extremely pervasive and difficult for consumers to avoid.

Facebook is informed anytime a Zoom user opens the app on their mobile phone. Facebook is also made aware of the cell phone model, the city and time zone the user is in while connecting, the phone carrier of the user while accessing the app, and a unique identifier that can be used to target the specific individual in an advertisement buy.

“I think users can ultimately decide how they feel about Zoom and other apps sending beacons to Facebook, even if there is no direct evidence of sensitive data being shared in current versions,” said Will Strafach, who founded the privacy-centered app Guardian, to VICE reporters.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had previously discovered a similar relationship that Facebook has with Ring, an app-driven device that captures remote videos at a user’s home of who is at the door.

“Our testing, using Ring for Android version 3.21.1, revealed PII delivery to branch.io, mixpanel.com, appsflyer.com and facebook.com. Facebook, via its Graph API, is alerted when the app is opened and upon device actions such as app deactivation after screen lock due to inactivity. Information delivered to Facebook (even if you don’t have a Facebook account) includes time zone, device model, language preferences, screen resolution, and a unique identifier (anon_id), which persists even when you reset the OS-level advertiser ID,” the EFF wrote earlier this year.

In addition to funneling privileged information to Facebook without it being listed in their privacy policy, Zoom does a poor job of protecting its users’ privacy rights for other reasons. The EFF notes that Zoom administrators can track whether its users are paying attention as well as access the IP address, location data, operating system and device information of users.

Even when they are not handing over information to Facebook in suspicious fashion, Zoom does little to protect its users from invasive measures.

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