Zoom is Using Your Meetings to Train its AI
Zoom is one of the most popular video conferencing platforms in the world, but using it can also pose major risks for your digital privacy and security. For many of us, this isn’t exactly news; the company has come under fire in the past for misleading consumers regarding the level of encryption offered to protect user communications. Zoom has also been the target of data breaches, losing hundreds of millions of usernames and passwords as a result.
And, in recent months, Zoom has come under fire for privacy concerns related to its new AI Training programme. In this blog post, we will explain how Zoom uses your meetings to train its artificial intelligence (AI) systems, and why you should consider switching to open-source privacy solutions instead.
Zoom’s AI ambitions
Zoom has been investing heavily in AI research and development, aiming to improve its products and services by introducing a host of new features like automatic transcription, background noise suppression, face detection, and emotion recognition. However, these changes come at a cost: to develop them, Zoom needs to collect and process a plethora of data from calls you make on the platform, including audio, video, chat, and screen sharing.
For example, Zoom states that it may use your data to “improve [its] products and services”, “develop new products and services”, “enhance [its] security”, and “comply with [its] legal obligations”. These are broad, sweeping terms that could cover almost anything the company might want to use your data for.
And, what’s more, it’s clear from the Zoom privacy statement that the company will readily share users’ information with third parties under a wide range of circumstances – in many cases, without obtaining prior consent. Depending on the situation, Zoom might share your data with vendors, resellers, government agencies, law enforcement, and more; and you probably won’t even know about it.
The dangers of Zoom’s AI training
You may wonder why you should care about Zoom’s AI training if you have nothing to hide, or if you trust the platform to handle your data responsibly. However, the way Zoom uses your personal information to train its AI systems gives plenty of cause for concern.
First, Zoom’s AI training may violate your intellectual property rights and lead to confidential information being shared far beyond its intended audience. If you use the platform for your work or education, you might end up discussing sensitive topics or sharing proprietary materials during your meetings.
The company’s AI training may then capture and analyse this information without your knowledge or consent, potentially infringing on your copyrights or patents. Moreover, as per Zoom’s Privacy Statement, your data can be shared with a whole host of third parties, and, more often than not, you won’t even be asked for your permission first.
Second, Zoom’s AI training may compromise your privacy. If you use Zoom socially – say, to keep in touch with friends and family – you might end up expressing controversial opinions, personal beliefs, or challenging ideas during calls.
Zoom’s AI training may record and analyse this information without seeking your consent, creating a detailed profile of who you are and what you do. Furthermore, Zoom’s AI training can transfer much of this information to third parties that will use it for marketing or surveillance purposes.
Third, Zoom’s AI training can impact the way you communicate with others – and you may not even realise it’s happening. Many of us love video calls and conferencing because they provide a convenient, organic way to both hold meetings remotely and keep in touch with our loved ones. However, as part of its AI training, Zoom can manipulate video or audio during calls without your prior consent or knowledge.
The platform can even enhance or suppress certain aspects of your voice or face, such as pitch, tone, volume, accent, expression, emotion, etc. This may alter how you sound or look to others, potentially affecting how you communicate or relate to them… or, given that Zoom outright owns its users’ data, these elements of your image may be distorted or misused for downright nefarious purposes.
What is a better approach? Open-source privacy solutions
Given the dangers of Zoom’s AI training, you may wonder what alternatives you have to protect your privacy and security while using video conferencing platforms. The answer is simple: switch to open-source privacy solutions instead.
Open-source privacy solutions are software applications that are developed and maintained by a community of independent developers who share their source code publicly. This means that anyone can inspect, verify, modify, or improve the software according to their needs and preferences. Open-source privacy solutions offer several advantages over proprietary platforms like Zoom:
- Transparency: You can see exactly how the software works and what data it collects and processes. You can also check if there are any bugs or vulnerabilities in the software that could compromise its functionality or security.
- Control: You can choose how the software operates and what features it offers. You can also customize the software to suit your specific requirements or preferences.
- Accountability: You can hold the developers accountable for their actions and decisions regarding the software. You can also report any issues or problems with the software and expect them to be fixed promptly.
- Freedom: You can use the software without any restrictions or limitations imposed by the developers or their partners. You can also share the software with others without any legal consequences.
Some examples of open-source privacy solutions for video conferencing are Jitsi Meet, Signal, Wire, BigBlueButton, and Nextcloud Talk. These solutions offer similar or better features than Zoom, such as high-quality audio and video, end-to-end encryption, screen sharing, chat, recording, etc. However, they also respect your privacy and security by not collecting or processing your data for AI training or similar purposes.
Zoom is a popular video conferencing platform, but its new AI training programme raises serious doubts regarding the company’s commitment to protecting user privacy and security. If either of these are important to you, then you should switch to open-source privacy solutions instead, which are transparent, controllable, accountable, and free. By doing so, you can enjoy video conferencing without compromising your data or dignity.
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