Zoom reaches $115 million settlement over user privacy, 'Zoombombing'

Zoom's customer base has grown sixfold since the Covid-19 pandemic forced more people to work from home. PHOTO: AFP

NEW YORK (REUTERS) - Zoom Video Communications agreed to pay US$85 million (S$115 million) and bolster its security practices to settle a lawsuit claiming it violated users' privacy rights by sharing personal data with Facebook, Google and LinkedIn, as well as letting hackers disrupt Zoom meetings in a practice called Zoombombing.

A preliminary settlement filed on Saturday (July 31) afternoon requires approval by United States District Judge Lucy Koh in San Jose, California.

Subscribers in the proposed class action would be eligible for 15 per cent refunds on their core subscriptions, or US$25, whichever is larger, while others could receive up to US$15.

Zoom agreed to security measures including alerting users when meeting hosts or other participants use third-party apps in meetings, and to provide specialised training to employees on privacy and data handling.

The San Jose-based company denied wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.

In a statement on Sunday, Zoom said: "The privacy and security of our users are top priorities for Zoom, and we take seriously the trust our users place in us."

Saturday's settlement came after Judge Koh on March 11 let the plaintiffs pursue some contract-based claims.

Though Zoom collected about US$1.3 billion in Zoom Meetings subscriptions from class members, the plaintiffs' lawyers called the US$85 million settlement reasonable given the litigation risks. They intend to seek up to US$21.25 million for legal fees.

Zoombombing is where outsiders hijack Zoom meetings and display pornography, use racist language or post other disturbing content.

Judge Koh said Zoom was mostly immune for Zoombombing under Section 230 of the federal Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from liability over user content.

Zoom's customer base has grown sixfold since the Covid-19 pandemic forced more people to work from home.

The company had 497,000 customers with more than 10 employees in April 2021, up from 81,900 in January last year. It has said that user growth could slow or decline as more people get vaccines and return to work or school in-person.

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