By now you’ve probably seen at least some of the news about Zoom, the video conferencing program that has quickly become a verb, is full of security and privacy risks. It is sharing/leaking data to other companies (Facebook), being investigated by Congress and Attorneys General, not really end-to-end encrypted, and so on. It’s also become a home for “networked harassment,” as Joan Donovan puts it – zoombombing by racists, sexists, and other creeps (insert stronger word here).
You, who may have spent the last 21 days living on Zoom – for work, play, family, and exercise – may feel like putting your head down in resignation at this news. (Go ahead, I’ll wait).
But we can also use this to really understand what it means to be digitally dependent. You’ve heard me refer to our digital technologies – the software, hardware, and telecomm choices we make – as our new landlords. We “rent” space from them and they set the rules. We “rent” space from them for our emails, our text messages, our video calls, our cloud storage, our shared documents, all of it. And, let’s be really clear, unlike our landlords in physical space, the space we rent from our digital landlords is all open-floor plan and the landlord sits in on every meeting, taking notes that he keeps for himself (and uses for his own purposes).
With that image in your mind, your best bet for protecting the information you care about from your digital landlords is to assume they are listening, taking notes, and profiting from those notes. In the real world, if you could see your landlord sitting there at every meeting and on every call, you’d adjust your conversations accordingly. In the short term – the same is true with your digital landlords.
In the bigger picture, you can follow, support, and get involved with your civil society peers who monitor the digital landlords and keep the pressure on them and regulators to change the way these tools work. That’s digital civil society in action.
For more on zoom see this from Joan Donovan, these from doc searls, and there’s been good media coverage from Vice, the Verge, The Intercept.