Privacy seems to be the latest casualty of COVID-19. I guess because I am involved in the information security community, I thought everybody knew about the atrocious privacy policies and reprehensible actions of Zoom. I was shocked to discover that Matthew and Joshua’s school district is planning on forcing children to use this platform whose policies probably make Mark Zuckerberg envious. Here is what I wrote to them today:

To: *****


It has come to my attention that you might be planning on using Zoom for some of your upcoming distance learning activities. I'm a physician in the community, literally on the front lines of this pandemic (though hardly one of the real heroes working in hospitals and ERs). I am also a technologist with a decades-long interest in digital civil rights and privacy. As such, I am concerned to see the erosion of civil liberties that are occurring under the aegis of crisis management -- often with little or no real justification. I am particularly concerned when those whose rights are being violated are children or young adults who have little agency in the choice of tools and technologies they must use. I have two children in District school, so this strikes close to home.

Zoom has a history of violations of their users' rights and taking deliberate, calculated actions that risk the safety and privacy of their users. A few examples:

Forcing our children to use Zoom products will put their safety at risk. Period. It has the very real potential to cause irreparable harms that will follow them into their adult lives.

More than once they have DELIBERATELY put code in their products that compromised their users' safety. Of course, they come back later and say "Gosh, we had no idea what we were doing, we didn't mean it, it wasn't our fault." Reminds me of this scene from the Blues Brothers movie:

In any case, Zoom's history of egregiously and repeatedly violating FERPA and other privacy laws is shocking. Anyone who trusts them now but later claims that "well they PROMISED they were FERPA compliant! They pinky swore!" will have to answer for not doing due diligence. Even after Zoom once-again apologize for their "mistakes" and move on to their next slick marketing campaign, it is the leaders who ignored ample evidence of malfeasance who will have to answer for the damage done.

Be accountable. Please don't put our children's security and privacy at risk for the sake of a little convenience.