When Zoom Video Communications (ZM -1.18%) introduced end-to-end encryption for paying customers only, the video meetings specialist met a firestorm of criticism. The controversy lasted about two weeks, and Zoom has now decided to provide end-to-end encryption for all types of meetings, whether or not they are hosted by a paying customer.
Listening to grassroots protests
Zoom didn't beat around the bush regarding the inspiration for the expanded encryption policy.
"Since releasing the draft design of Zoom's end-to-end encryption (E2EE) on May 22, we have engaged with civil liberties organizations, our CISO council, child safety advocates, encryption experts, government representatives, our own users, and others to gather their feedback on this feature," the announcement stated.
In other words, the drumbeat of protests in social media posts, signature collections, and public petitions made a difference. Zoom now plans to support end-to-end encryption for every class of users in July.
Free Zoom users still won't get the privacy-protecting security of full-stream encryption by default. Users must first go through a one-time registration process that ties the account to a working phone number. Furthermore, some features won't work with an encrypted meeting, such as call-in participation via phone lines or legacy conference-room meeting systems. Hosts can turn the encryption on or off for each meeting, as these feature limitations might require.
Nevertheless, the ability to run a secure video meeting from a free account is an impressive step forward and petition organizer Fight For the Future was quick to announce a victory for grassroots activists and for Zoom users as a whole.
"End-to-end encryption is one of the most important technologies keeping people safe online, and it's essential for basic human rights," the organization said in a prepared statement. "Every company should offer users end-to-end encryption wherever possible"