Updated: Oct 28, 2020
By: Christopher Alvarez
Is quarantine really a state of isolation? Or an acceptance route to invasion of privacy? Every day our society is being shaped by new technological improvements (or in some cases, malfunctions). The site that Adelphi and thousands of other groups have been using for online gatherings, Zoom, is receiving some backlash after gaining 200 million users in the month of March alone, as reported by CNBC.
Zoom is a video-conferencing service company aimed at providing social interactions online, like meetings. The coronavirus continues to affect many of our loved ones, making personal connections harder to maintain by the second. With the ability to connect with thousands at once, Zoom is now being used for many purposes like gym sessions, education classes and cocktail parties. However, recent allegations might put a stop to the growing juggernaut company.
For starters, Zoom has been found selling their users’ private information to other companies. As of April 8, Google, SpaceX, NASA, the German Foreign Ministry and the Australian Defense Force removed Zoom from use and banned their employees from using it on company computers. Jose Castaneda, a Google spokesperson, explained to the press: “Recently, our security team informed employees using Zoom Desktop Client that it will no longer run on corporate computers as it does not meet our security standards for apps used by our employees. Employees who have been using Zoom to stay in touch with family and friends can continue to do so through a web browser or via mobile.” Elon Musk also took measures to ban Zoom as it raises “significant privacy and security concerns.”
People should not be exposed to or feel any more risk for trying to maintain their friendships after being constantly concerned with contracting this virus. Companies and countries around the world are right in taking action and limiting risks. However, they must also be careful with limitations, as some people might feel like they are being stripped from their freedom to take advantage of the opportunities technology has to offer. The question of privacy and freedom has always clashed, and so the right question not only becomes how people have to adapt to this new way of life, but also when should the government intervene? To what degree should they get involved? From an economic perspective, the governments of certain countries are right to intervene now as Zoom is already producing externalities, a side effect of a commercial activity that affects other parties. How much intervention is needed is still a pressing problem.
"Zoombombing" is the new hacking epidemic that has been a major driving force for countries and states to ban Zoom, along with other privacy uncertainties. Singapore and Taiwan are two of many countries that have done just that. According to a “Guardian” article, a hacked history class is what called for Singapore’s government to issue a Zoom ban. “One incident involved obscene images appearing on screens and male strangers making lewd comments during the streaming of a geography lesson with teenage girls.” Another incident that forced Taiwan to take banning measures, was the traffic that was being sent through Beijing. New York City has yet to issue a statewide ban, but some schools have banned teachers from using Zoom and the Department of Education encourages schools to abandon Zoom and switch to a service from Microsoft.
Zoom, meanwhile, has apologized for such events and promised to improve its security and privacy features. Sadly, apologizing does not fix the inappropriate images children have been forced to see during these “zoombombings.” They do not fix the additional fear that people have the next time they host a meeting.
Zoom, now a happiness theft to some, is increasingly reputed as a dangerous environment for gatherings. Questions about the future are now rising: Should we really be so dependent on technology? Or is it something that must be adapted to fit the new reality? We do not have to be limited to just these two possibilities. There’s more to life than being glued to a screen. Life is what you make of it, not what someone tells you to do. Zoom may have caused us to zoom into more issues, but it is up to us to not fall into the trap and zoom in to a more meaningful life.