Zoom to pay $85M for privacy miscues at start of pandemic

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By MICHAEL LIEDTKE AP Technology Writer

Zoom will pay $85 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that weak privacy controls opened too many peepholes into the personal information of users and that it was too easy for outsiders to disrupt video meetings during the early stages of the pandemic.

The proposed agreement must still be approved by U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh. A hearing on the settlement is scheduled for Oct. 21 in San Jose, California.

Millions of people in the U.S. who have used Zoom since March 31, 2020 could be eligible for a slice of the settlement that was reached over the weekend. The payment amounts are expected to average $34 or $35 for those who subscribed to Zoom’s paid version, and $11 or $12 for the overwhelming majority who used the free version, based on estimates in court documents.

Zoom was bedeviled by security issues early last year after stay-at-home orders transformed the company’s videoconferencing service from a niche product into a cultural phenomenon. Almost overnight it became the go-to venue for business meetings, schools, social gatherings and, in a deadly global pandemic, funerals.

The lawsuit alleged that the Silicon Valley company violated the trust of millions of people by sharing the personal information of users with platforms like Facebook, Google and Microsoft-owned LinkedIn. The case, which consolidated 14 different lawsuits filed since March 2020, also targeted the disruptive practice of “Zoombombing” — a term coined to describe hackers who broke into videoconferencing meetings being held by others.

The company in a prepared statement Monday said that it acted quickly to tighten security after reports of Zoombombing began to surface.

“We are proud of the advancements we have made to our platform, and look forward to continuing to innovate with privacy and security at the forefront,” Zoom said Monday. The company didn’t acknowledged any wrongdoing in the settlement.

Security concerns did not prevent Zoom from permeating the daily lives of millions during the pandemic.

The Zoom’s annual revenue quadrupled last year to nearly $2.7 billion and it ended April with 497,000 customers that employed at least 10 workers and subscribed to the premium version of its service, up from 81,900 customers before the pandemic hit the U.S. Its stock price has tripled and traded close to $380 Monday.

The lawyers that pursued the case are seeking $21.25 million, or 25% of the $85 million settlement fund.

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