Zoom U-turns on its no e2e encryption policy for free users

Zoom is offering E2E encryption to all its users; this is way better than previous offer of “no E2E encryption unless you pay.”

Zoom offers e2e encryption

The video conferencing platform Zoom just made a major U-turn and announced that it’s going to offer e2e encryption to all its users. This will also include users who don’t pay for the company’s services.

Free users need to provide more information for the verification process before using the e2e encryption, which Zoom calls a security check to “prevent and fight abuse” on its platform. However, it’s a big step up from the previous offer of “no e2e unless you make payment.”

“We are grateful to users who have given input on the E2E design,” Zoom stated in a blog post today. “We want everyone to share their views through the ongoing process.”

Previously, the company faced a lot of criticism after Bloomberg reported the comments by CEO Eric Yuan. He stated that the company wouldn’t provide E2E encryption for non-paying users because it planned to work with law enforcement.

Since the encryption storm, Zoom has faced another major scandal. This time it’s related to censorship and privacy. The company admitted to shutting down several accounts at the request of the Chinese government. Thus, the company has reversed its stance. Moreover, it’s difficult to censor the content which isn’t visible.

Chinese government flag

Zoom explained this shift in a recent blog post. The company stated that it goes through an engagement period “with the civil liberty organizations advocate child safety, our CISO council, government representatives, users, and others.”

“We have also explored several new technologies that enable us to offer E2E subscription to all users.”
The blog post mentions briefly how the non-paying users will get access to the e2e encryption. Zoom stated, ” The users who want complete access to E2E will have to participate in a one-time process that will give users additional information, such as verifying the phone number through text.”

“Several top companies perform steps for the creation of accounts to reduce abusive accounts. We believe that by the implementation of authentication, with the current tools, we can continue and fight abuse,” it stated.

Several countries need ID checks in order to purchase SIM cards. Thus, the verification process of Zoom makes it difficult for the users to access e2e subscription, without leaving a large trail.

Zoom stated that a beta of the e2e encryption implementation would start in July. Meanwhile, the default encryption of the platform is AES 256 GCM.
The encryption won’t be switched on by default. However, Zoom states that it will be an option. According to Zoom, it limits the operations of the meeting functionalities.

The company further states, “Hosts will be able to toggle E2E on a pre-meeting basis.” The company also stated that account administrators would be able to enable and disable E2EE on the group level.”

Today, the company also gave out a v2 update of the encryption design. Moreover, it posted the specifications to GitHub.

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