Issue 72

Zoom is proof people don't care

Delivered on 06 April 2020 by Justin Pyvis. About a 4 min read.

Yes, I'm writing about the videoconferencing software Zoom again. The thing is since I sent last week's issue, even more information has come to light about just how bad Zoom really is. It really, truly is pure malware, yet like its malware cousin Facebook, remains incredibly popular.

Regulators take note: there are enough people that don't sufficiently care about their data security to make the relatively costless switch to an alternative free videoconferencing provider, meaning they ascribe a value of close to zero on the information they reveal during a video call. People who care about privacy and security will use something else, those that don't will use Zoom. In that environment one-size-fits-all privacy regulation will do nothing but harm those who do not value it.

But back to Zoom. Last week I alluded to the fact that Zoom shouldn't be trusted because, from day one, it has prioritised just about everything else above its users' privacy and security. Companies with a culture that treats security as a patchwork whack-a-mole exercise rather than something that needs to be built into the core from the start are just asking for a major security breach.

Zoom is one of those companies. The list of issues revealed in the past week has been nothing short of astronomical for a company that had the gumption to claim on its website that it was "end-to-end encrypted" (it's not), so I'm going to list the articles here and you can read whatever tickles your fancy:

That's a lot discovered in a single week. As I wrote last week, please don't use Zoom, just about anything is more secure (yes even Facebook). Jitsi is a good alternative, although if you want something end-to-end encrypted then there's always Jami. For one-on-one calls, look no further than Signal.

Will Zoom survive beyond COVID-19? Yes. It's easy to use, reliable and convenient, and it has apologised for some of the revelations above, for example how it routed calls through China and allowed meetings to get "Zoombombed".

But Zoom will never monopolise the market as its culture of features first at all cost, including its users' security, will deter a sufficiently large pool of people to prevent it from becoming the top dog - it's not 2004 any more! That's now being reflected in Zoom's share price, which has fallen nearly 20% in the past week although is still around double what it was pre-coronavirus.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, one of the lasting post-coronavirus impacts is likely to be remote work, with Zoom well placed to capture at least some of that market (Microsoft - which acquired the market leader Skype back in 2011 - really dropped the ball here). There are enough people that don't care about privacy or security - hello Facebook - for Zoom to still do quite well in the post-coronavirus world. Its next move will be its most important.

Enjoy the rest of this week's issue. Cheers,

— Justin

Other bits of interest

Houseparty picks up where Zoom left off

The name and built-in gaming features means it'll never capture the corporate market, but it's incredibly popular with teenagers and doesn't have the same security issues as Zoom, despite the alleged smear campaign (it's owned by Epic Games, the creators of Fortnite).

The coronavirus might be with us for some time

The after-effects, anyway:

Significant macroeconomic after-effects of the pandemics persist for about 40 years, with real rates of return substantially depressed. In contrast, we find that wars have no such effect, indeed the opposite.

Artificial intelligence woes

It's almost as if there's nothing intelligent about it.

“Here’s a setting where we have hundreds of participants and a rich data set, and even the best AI results are still not accurate,” said study co-lead author Matt Salganik, a professor of sociology at Princeton and interim director of the Center for Information Technology Policy at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. “These results show us that machine learning isn’t magic; there are clearly other factors at play when it comes to predicting the life course.”

Silicon Valley is struggling

Well, parts of it:

Over 3,500 start-up jobs were eliminated this month as the coronavirus crisis disrupted business-as-usual across the economy.  The layoffs, compiled by CNBC based on media reports, spanned more than 40 companies that have collectively raised more than $14 billion.

[However], start-ups in some areas — telemedicine, food delivery, online learning, remote work, gaming [and surveillance] — are thriving amid the quarantines. And there were signs that the boom times were shaky even before the coronavirus brought wide swaths of the U.S. economy to a halt.

Issue 72: Zoom is proof people don't care was compiled by Justin Pyvis and delivered on 06 April 2020.