SocraticGadfly: Zoom sucks, far beyond Zoombombing

April 05, 2020

Zoom sucks, far beyond Zoombombing

Read The Intercept. Or twice.

Or Schneier on Security.

Or Tech Crunch.

Or the Guardian.

Or even NPR.

Or search the Net on your own.

Per Schneier, Zoom sucks three ways. It's a mix of
1. Bad privacy practices.
2. Bad security protections.
3. Bad user configurations.

Reporting your info to Facebook.

Trying to lift info from your LinkedIn.

Those are under No. 1

And, possible Chinese backdoors. Definitely No. 2.

And, of course, Zoombombing. No. 3.

That said, even if the Zoombombing is primarily "user error" on the part of hosts/leaders of meetings, Zoom should have been more proactive on instructing hosts to lock things down and how. And, Zoombombing itself is not just a malicious prank, it's harmful in a number of ways — and if kids under 18 are being shown porn, surely illegal.

I had, for some personal reasons, signed up for a Zoom account. I've made sure I am logged out on both FF and Chrome browsers. Unfortunately, the IT person coordinating the Zoom events that partially motivated my sign-up is largely dismissive. That's all I can say.

I won't accept as an excuse that Zoom has coronavirus growing pains. Per The Intercept, Schneier and others with IT / cybersecurity career backgrounds, many of the things that are wrong about Zoom were flagged a year or two ago.

Is it too harsh to call Zoom malware, as in the Guardian piece? I don't think so. Add in the fact that, per Schneier, its early responses have been "minimum necessary" on actual fixes accompanied by "maximum possible" on corporate PR bullshit and there you go.

Update, April 6: Zoom has apparently pulled back away from requiring meeting passwords. So, their "minimum necessary" was itself a clusterfuck.


So, what are the alternatives?

First, contra Margaret Thatcher's infamous TINA, there ARE alternatives.

Alternative No. 1 might be asking if you even need the video conferencing.

Take schools first.

In my local area, all the smaller school districts aren't using non-interactive OR interactive video. They're simply preparing weekly lesson plans and having parents pick it up, either physically or online. Stuff gets turned in online. Yes, the interactiveness is missed.

But, you know what? We're in a new normal.

I mentioned non-interactive video.

For education, option B, since most education, not only at the K-12 level but undergraduate collegiate, is still the good old fashioned lecture? Record teacher lectures and post them on a YouTube channel.

OK, business next.

Slack, and jokes about it being down on Twitter from time to time, has become a backbone of multi-location staff meetings. So just use it more.

"Have to" have video? Double check first.

If you do, there are options.

I just mentioned one. Slack does video calls.

So does Google Hangouts.

Yeah, Google will be spying on you. But, you already knew that. And, it will still have somewhat better privacy than Zoom. And, Google and Slack are known commodities.

It may be harder for a leader to control video calls than a full blown meeting. And these apps may not have things like whiteboards.

You know what? They're good enough.

Support groups?

Kind of similar to businesses, but with added privacy needs.

This isn't that hard, though.

There's text-based meeting apps like Adobe Connect. Or using Google Hangouts. You simply have to tell members of your support group meeting that the meeting is being treated as "closed" and people who aren't members aren't to be invited.

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