As the work from home policies of states get tightened around the world, the one software that is seeing the bloom is the video conferencing apps. Video conference apps have seen a record number of downloads. One of them, Zoom, was even targeted for its lax privacy measures after which it admitted having allowed calls to be routed through China.
As per a new report from App Annie, video conference apps are witnessing an upsurge in their demand almost to the point of a roaring number of downloads every day. This report is not unfound given that the growing social distancing measures imply that people have to rely on other smarter measures. These apps hit their greatest ever week in March during the week starting from 14 of March.
In such a favorable situation, Zoom has done particularly well while topping the charts in the past 2 months, i.e., February and March. This data has been accumulated worldwide, and the numbers continue to soar higher. But, the app has managed to gain a considerable amount of criticism and raised many concerns. These concerns mainly revolve around its privacy measures and security practices.
As hundreds of millions have been forced to work from the confines of their homes, the researchers at the Citizen lab were the first to bring to light the fact that an uncertain number of calls made using the Zoom platform was routed through China by the company. It is an issue that requires immediate concern. Subsequently, the platform was greeted with questions once again. The company came up with an apology and a partial explanation as well.
Zoom’s CEO Eric Yuan, there has been a massive influx of application users that make use of video conferencing tools over the previous few weeks. The platform then clarified that it “mistakenly” allowed 2 data centers of its establishment located in China in case there is any network congestion. The same, the company underlined, was done to have a backup and allow calls to be made simultaneously.
It is important to note that the Zoom clients are given a list of data centers that are apt to them and preferably near their regions of dwelling. The CEO of the company explained as to what must have caused the problem that surfaced. He reiterated that it occurred mistakenly.
Eric Yuan further said, “This system is critical to Zoom’s trademark reliability, particularly during times of massive internet stress.”Source
These Zoom clients will normally try to connect to a series of primary data centers. Sometimes, the connections fail to be made with these primary data centers even after multiple requests. It is during these times of Internet stress or network congestion that the system attempts to get connected to the secondary data centers located elsewhere.
What happens is that during spikes in traffic over the network, the system shifts to the available data center where there is the good capacity to handle the strain. It is very important to know that the platform operates on the principle of “geo-fencing.” As per this, all calls made in the US are required to stay in the US, European ones are supposed to remain in Europe, and it goes the same way for every other region except for times of congestion.
The company claimed that such situations occurred in very few instances, although it could not present a number of people that could have been impacted. The same, however, does not apply to China mainly because a different set of privacy rules govern the companies operating in China. Citizen’s data has to be kept within its borders, the laws mandate.
The main problem here which has managed to have evaded many queries is the encryption technique given that Zoom has written its own scheme for encryption of calls. That the security of calls is taken care of by their encryption could also mean that there are Zoom servers located in China that may have access to the encryption keys.
It is important, however, that the platform stays committed to improving. Meanwhile, two class-action lawsuits await the platform in New York. Multiple lawmakers have demanded an explanation of how the company manages its data and encrypts it towards security. It was known that the platform is not at all end to end encrypted.
Social networking apps also are seeing amazing growth in the United States and Europe during these difficult times of lockdown. A lot many new customers are being lured by these apps, prominent ones being Zoom Cloud meetings and Google’s Hangouts Meet. Hangouts have seen a 140x and 30x growth in the US and Italy.
Microsoft Teams is also doing pretty well. It grew by 15, 16, and 30 times in Spain, France, and Italy.