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Zoom to start providing end-to-end encryption to all users from next week

The software maker also unveiled OnZoom, an event platform in which users can host free, paid or fund-raising events with an integrated payment system.

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San Francisco: Zoom Video Communications Inc. said it’s rolling out a promised end-to-end encryption feature to secure user meetings and announced a raft of new products, seeking to put safety concerns behind it and maintain the company’s lofty growth.

End-to-end encryption, the strongest data security standard, will be generally available to free and paid users next week on an optional basis, the San Jose, California-based company said Wednesday in a statement. The software maker also unveiled OnZoom, an event platform in which users can host free, paid or fund-raising events with an integrated payment system. A public test version of the service began Wednesday for some users.

Zoom, a maker of a videoconferencing service, has been among the most prominent corporate beneficiaries of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has forced millions of people to work and study from home. The software maker reported that quarterly revenue surged 355% to $663.5 million in the period ended in July, the second consecutive period of triple-digit sales growth. The outsize gains have propelled Zoom’s stock more than sevenfold this year, to a market value of more than $147 billion. Shares declined 3% to $503.41 at 1:17 p.m. Wednesday in New York.

Zoom is the rare business application that also has been adopted by consumers en masse, with more than 300 million daily meeting participants depending on the service to connect with colleagues, communities and loved ones. Yet the platform has faced months of controversy for security and safety lapses. Researchers discovered some instances when Zoom’s calls were routed through servers in mainland China, even though no meeting participant was based there. And trolls began invading calls with profane, pornographic and racist content, in a phenomenon known as Zoombombing that continues to plague the system.

Town hall incident

U.S. Representative Jahana Hayes, a Democrat from Connecticut who is Black, wrote Tuesday in a Medium post about a racist Zoom attack during a town hall with constituents. A series of participants hurled racial epithets and told her to “pick cotton.” When one individual was kicked out of the meeting, another would pick up the baton, causing the disruption to last six minutes, she said.

“We are deeply upset to hear about this and we take the privacy of Zoom Meetings very seriously,” the company told the lawmaker on Twitter, after she shared her story. The company said it would investigate the issue. The Washington Post earlier reported on the incident.

Zoom has touted full encryption and changes to give meeting hosts more control over participants as solutions to these issues.

Even with its popularity among consumers, the company recognizes that most of its future growth will come from businesses, so Zoom is trying to expand in the unified communications market occupied by RingCentral Inc. The idea is to combine videoconferencing, phone calls and text messaging on one platform and sell it to companies looking to modernize their communications systems.

Tools aimed at business efficiency

Zoom, which competes with videoconferencing services from Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. among others, also announced new tools to help software developers better integrate Zoom into their products. Among the offerings introduced as part of Wednesday’s Zoomtopia conference was Zapps, which are apps that users can access without leaving the Zoom platform, including tools from Slack Technologies Inc., Box Inc. and Atlassian Corp. The company said more than 25 launch partners joined this effort. Zoom also updated its software development kit to better let other businesses embed Zoom in their own applications, and they will be able to customize the user interface and meeting controls.

Finally, Zoom rolled out smaller product updates to improve user experiences, such as the ability to give all participants the same background in a meeting as well as new breakout and debrief rooms during large webinars.

“Zoom is built for this moment and beyond,” Chief Executive Officer Eric Yuan said in the statement. “We have the platform to support what the world needs — today, tomorrow, and well into the future.” –Bloomberg

Also read: Online education could be most efficient option in Covid, but it lacks vitality of classroom


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