Zoom says end-to-end encryption will be available to both free and paid users in major U-turn

Zoom says End-to-End Encryption will be available to all users in major U-turn

Zoom has said it will give all users of its video calling platform end-to-end encryption, starting with a beta test next month.

The company wrote in a blog post that free and paid users will have access to the feature.

Recently, Zoom had been criticised for its lack of end-to-end encryption.

Zoom then announced it would roll out the feature – but only to people with paying accounts. CEO Eric Yuan had said that the decision was so Zoom could allow law enforcement access to its calls.

That led to a flurry of criticism from activists and privacy groups who argued that the app was unnecessarily endangering conversations.

The company also shut down the account of a Tiananmen Square activist, who had a paid account, at the behest of the Chinese government. The account was later reinstated.

End-to-end encryption means only the communicating users can read the messages. It is a feature of messaging services such as WhatsApp and Signal, but not Facebook Messenger or text messages.

Messages, or calls, that are not end-to-end encrypted are less private than those which are.

Both free and paid users of Zoom will need to go through a one-time process when making calls to verify their identity, such as confirming a phone number through text message, in order to get end-to-end encryption.

Account administrators would be able to enable end-to-end encryption on any group calls, in order to allow phone lines or older conferences room phones to access the call.

“Many leading companies perform similar steps on account creation to reduce the mass creation of abusive accounts. We are confident that by implementing risk-based authentication, in combination with our current mix of tools — including our Report a User function — we can continue to prevent and fight abuse” Zoom wrote.

“We’re heartened that Zoom listened to consumers,” said Mozilla’s VP of Advocacy Ashley Boyd, “especially at a time when millions of people are relying on the platform to stay connected amid the pandemic and to organize in support of Black lives.”

Mozilla, alongside the Electronic Frontier Foundation, was one of the companies organising petitions for Zoom to implement end-to-end encryption with it being argued that the video calling software can be crucial to helping protestors and activists organise.

Written by Sara Grant

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