- End-to-end Zoom encryption is coming soon to all accounts, both free and paid.
- Free users will need to go through some identity verifications before getting the feature.
- Beta testing for encryption on the service begins next month with no announced timeline for a stable rollout.
Today, video conferencing app Zoom announced that it will backtrack on its earlier statements regarding user privacy. Soon, Zoom encryption will be available to all users, regardless of if they have a free or premium subscription.
The move follows intense PR backlash after Zoom’s CEO stated very clearly that the company had no intention of offering encryption to free users.
Zoom encryption: How do you get it?
According to Zoom’s blog post on the matter, obtaining end-to-end encryption will be different depending on the type of account you have. If you are a paid user or have a premium account through some other means (school, work, etc.), you don’t need to do anything: Zoom encryption will work for you as soon as it goes live.
The only time this wouldn’t be the case is if you manually turn off Zoom encryption on a per-meeting basis or if your account administrator disables it for you. The former situation would be useful if the equipment used by certain callers doesn’t play nice with the encryption, while the latter could be due to any number of reasons.
If you’re a free user, it’s a bit more complicated. To get Zoom encryption on your non-paid account, you’ll need to go through a one-time identity verification process. Zoom isn’t quite clear on the exact steps this will entail, but it uses “verifying a phone number via a text message” as an example. It’s possible there could be more than that, but it’s reasonable to expect that to be a requirement.
Zoom encryption is expected to roll out in July as an early beta phase. Zoom hasn’t committed to any timeline beyond that, although it’s likely it will be available to all by the end of the year.
Why was there user backlash?
Originally, Zoom faced a lot of backlash for simply not offering end-to-end encryption at all. This could be partially forgiven when you realize how fast Zoom has had to grow. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Zoom was growing, yes, but at a reasonable pace. But suddenly, millions of people were working from home and using Zoom, which likely caused a lot of growing pains.
Eventually, the company came around and committed to launching Zoom encryption at some point in the future. However, the company’s CEO revealed that free users would not get encryption. This decision was based not on the idea that encryption should be for paid users only, but because…well…here’s what he said:
Free users, for sure, we don’t want to give that [end-to-end encryption – ed]. Because we also want to work it together with FBI and local law enforcement, in case some people use Zoom for bad purpose (sic).
Obviously, this didn’t go over well with people. It’d be one thing if Zoom encryption was a premium-tier perk, but this was something else.
Today’s news that Zoom encryption will be available to all will likely make people feel a lot better about the service. However, some may have already moved on to other applications.