Zoom Video Communications is settling a class-action lawsuit with users for $85 million.
Earlier this month, Zoom agreed to pay $85 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by a group of users who claimed they were left traumatized by an unsettling trend called zoom-bombing. Zoom-bombing is when hackers and pranksters crash “into virtual meetings with explicit images and abusive messages.”
In addition to financial compensation, Zoom Video Communications will also make changes to its business practices to counter zoom-bombing, including plans to “improve meeting security, bolster privacy disclosures and safeguard consumer data.”
California federal judge Laurel Beeler gave the final nod of approval for the agreement. The suit was first filed last July and stemmed from “14 class-action complaints filed against the San Jose-based company by users between March and May of 2020, in which they argued that the company violated their privacy and security.”
One of the plaintiffs was Saint Paulus Lutheran Church in San Francisco. According to the complaint, Saint Paulus Lutheran Church “was hosting a bible study class in which most of the participants were senior citizens…when Zoom allowed a ‘known offender’… to ‘Zoombomb’ the class.” During the incident, class participants “had their computer screens hijacked and their control buttons disabled while being forced to watch pornographic video footage, including images of child sex abuse and physical abuse.”
Unfortunately, the host was not able to remove the hacker from the meeting room, so participants tried logging out and logging back into the meeting room. The hacker was able to re-enter the meeting and continued to bombard participants with even more graphic content. As a result, the host and many of the participants were left “traumatized and helpless,” according to the lawsuit.
Another incident occurred in April 2020 at Oakland’s Oak Life Church. Participants joining a virtual Sunday service via Zoom were “bombarded with child sex abuse images.” What makes this incident worse is that many of the impacted participants “were trauma survivors to begin with…and were left traumatized and devastated.” Court documents stated:
“Oak Life Church was required to hire trauma counselors and establish support groups to assist its congregation in dealing with the resulting trauma.”
In addition to accusing Zoom Video Communications of preventing zoom-bombings, the lawsuit accused the company of “unlawfully sharing data with authorized third parties such as Facebook, Google and LinkedIn and misrepresenting the strength of its end-to-end encryption protocols.”
When commenting on the lawsuit, Tina Wolfson, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, said:
“In the age of corporate surveillance, this historic settlement recognizes that data is the new oil and compensates consumers for unwittingly providing data in exchange for a ‘free’ service…It also compensates those who paid for a product they did not receive and commits Zoom to changing its corporate behavior to better inform consumers about their privacy choices and provide stronger cybersecurity.”