Zoom has announced all its users will be secured using end-to-end encryption (E2EE) protection following a major about-turn by the company.
Previously, only paying customers of the video conferencing platform were able to know that their chats were fully secured, but following an outcry from customers, security experts and the technology industry at large, Zoom has now made the service available to all users.
However a beta launch won’t roll out fully until July 2020, meaning many users still won’t be able to benefit from the extra protection for some time.
Free and Basic Zoom users will need to provide some extra pieces of information to sign up to E2EE, with the company giving the example of verifying a phone number via a text message.
This process will only need to be carried out once to turn on E2EE, but it’s not known how the additional information will be stored. Previously, free users were able to sign up to Zoom with just an email address.
Announcing the news, Zoom noted that E2EE will be an optional feature as it limits some meeting functionalities, such as the ability to include traditional PSTN phone lines or SIP/H.323 hardware conference room systems.
Call hosts will be able toggle E2EE on or off on a per-meeting basis, although doing the latter will of course offer less security, and account administrators can enable and disable E2EE at the account and group level.
“We are grateful to those who have provided their input on our E2EE design, both technical and philosophical,” Zoom CEO Eric Yuan wrote. “We encourage everyone to continue to share their views throughout this complex, ongoing process.”
The news comes days after Zoom revealed it was working on technology that will allow it to block certain users from meetings. The move comes after the US-based firm faced criticism for shutting down the accounts of three prominent human rights activists who were trying to commemorate the anniversary of Tienanmen Square.
The launch should also help address issues of ‘Zoom-bombing’, where unwanted and unexpected guests join a call for the sole purpose of annoying its participants. Zoom has made several security improvements to try and stop such incidents, but several governments, companies and other organizations have already decided to ban use of Zoom for official business due to security concerns.