In the space of a few weeks, the coronavirus pandemic has taken Zoom from a niche video conferencing app to one of the most important communication services in the world. Schools, businesses, and healthcare providers have all started to rely on Zoom to connect workers who are sheltering in place during the pandemic, but the app’s privacy issues threaten to derail its massive growth. This week, Zoom was forced to remove a tool that allowed people to snoop on LinkedIn profiles belonging to anyone who signed into a meeting.
Users who log into Zoom for the occasional lecture or conference call might not realize the service has its own app ecosystem. You can install tools like Slack, Google Calendar, and more in just a few clicks. One such add-on for Zoom is LinkedIn Sales Navigator, which is actually a rather cunning data miner. The app (listed by Zoom itself) connects to a service of the same name on LinkedIn. LinkedIn charges $80 per month for the service, which is promoted as a powerful lead-generator and sales management tool. The problem is that it’s very “efficient” at displaying data on the people who join your meetings.
With LinkedIn Sales Navigator enabled on Zoom, the person running a meeting can get LinkedIn data about any of the participants. That could include location, employers, job titles, work history, and more. This data is available at the click of a button for any user who enters a name and email. The plug-in simply connects to the LinkedIn service and matches that information with a profile.
According to a New York Times investigation, the problem is not simply that LinkedIn Sales Navigator can grab data from LinkedIn. The problem is the way it’s implemented by Zoom — it essentially overrides your privacy settings. Even if you choose to join a meeting with a nickname or with the anonymous flag enabled, LinkedIn Sales Navigator gets your real LinkedIn data and provides it to the organizer.
After the Times provided its data to Zoom, the company issued a statement to confirm that it was removing the LinkedIn Sales Navigator tool from its platform. The LinkedIn Sales Navigator continues to exist on LinkedIn, where it costs $80 per month as before and still plugs in to numerous other services. So, this particular privacy flaw is no longer live, but this is only the latest issue with Zoom’s approach to video conferencing. The FBI recently warned Zoom users about so-called “Zoombombs” where trolls attempt to hijack meetings.
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