Zoom’s end-to-end encryption will be a premium feature for paid users

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How to use Zoom videoconferencing.
Image: Zoom

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, Zoom has become a household name. Whether it’s used for business meetings, virtual happy hours, or social distancing workout classes, Zoom’s videoconferencing platform is booming. Unfortunately, the company has been plagued with privacy concerns throughout its meteoric rise.

As part of an effort to correct those mistakes, Zoom pledged to enter a 90-day period of focusing on its security. It already rolled out a security-heavy update in the middle of April. Now, it’s taking things a step further.

Recently, a Zoom security consultant confirmed that the platform is working on end-to-end encryption. Sadly for casual users, it appears that the feature will only be accessible to premium subscribers.

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Enhanced Encryption

In today’s world of digital devices, cybersecurity is important. Now, with more important business being conducted online than ever before as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic that’s even more true.

It’s worth noting that Zoom currently encrypts the connection between its company servers and the device that a user is on. The company also recently updated to AES 256-bit GCM encryption for all users as of Saturday.

However, that isn’t a perfect approach. End-to-end encryption, a form that is much more robust, actually secures connections between every device involved in a call. Apple’s Facetime is one service that uses it. Zoom, unfortunately, does not yet.

End-to-end encryption is growing in popularity though. For the tech companies responsible for implementing the security method, it’s a nightmare. It often interferes with existing platform structures and requires creative workarounds to maintain usability. For Zoom specifically, turning on end-to-end encryption could eliminate the ability of users to join a meeting using their phone number.

With all this in mind, Zoom notes that its encryption plans are still “a work in progress.”

Paying a Price for Privacy

Interestingly, recent reports suggest that Zoom’s new end-to-end encrypted videoconferencing might not be available to all users. Rather, the platform may roll it out only to premium subscribers who pay to use versions of its software with more features.

At this point, the plan could still change. However, it seems fairly clear that Zoom plans to move forward with the approach.

Non-profit organizations and schools may be able to get some sort of break from the new policy, but that too remains unknown. Zoom notes that a variety of “technological, safety, and business factors” went into its decision.

Per a Reuters report, a Zoom spokesperson also notes that end-to-end encryption makes it impossible for the platform to address abuse in real-time. Those familiar with Zoom know that it experiences its fair share of troublemakers. As such, taking away its ability to deal with such people could be a problem.

Zoom has a tricky situation on its hands. After the pandemic settles down, it will likely lose many of the millions of users it has gained since March. Rolling out privacy features only for those who pay could further alienate its user base.

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