Zoom has backtracked on its decision to limit support for end-to-end encrypted (E2EE) calls just for paying customers and announced today that it would make the feature available to all users.
In a blog post today, Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said initial support for E2EE calls would roll out in next month, in July 2020, as part of Zoom beta releases.
To prevent abuse, such as child pornography, violent content, and others, Yuan said Zoom plans to verify all users who enable the feature.
“To make this possible, Free/Basic users seeking access to E2EE will participate in a one-time process that will prompt the user for additional pieces of information, such as verifying a phone number via a text message,” Yuan explained.
The Zoom CEO said this would help the company balance customers’ need for privacy but also fight abuse. Currently, Zoom uses machine learning algorithms to scan video calls for nudity and signs of child abuse material but has also recently added a “Report User” function.
Zoom announced support for E2EE calls last month, but the company came under heavy criticism this month when it clarified that the feature would only be available to paying customers. It was criticized by users, security experts, and privacy and human rights defenders alike.
Support for E2EE calls is part of Zoom’s three-month plan to bolster the app’s security, which was spectacularly exposed as being deficient at the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at the start of the year when most users started working from home and relied more heavily on solutions like Zoom for work and family meetings.
As part of Zoom’s pledge to improve the app’s security, the company has also made the E2EE design available on GitHub, for public review.