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Some free Zoom users will get encryption tools, including schools

Zoom's coming end-to-end encryption will mostly be available to paid users only, but those who use business accounts for free like schools will be able to use the service as well.

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Zoom's plan to offer end-to-end encryption to its users is going to leave some out of the loop — those who use the video conferencing service, but only the free version. An advisor to the company, who is working on design the end-to-end encryption tool, Alex Stamos hit Twitter to explain the reason why this tool won't be available to everyone, in a long thread that focuses on why Zoom feels this kind of security needs to be something they can offer people as an upgrade, and why free users shouldn't have access.

Zoom is a video conferencing tool that ballooned in popularity as Covid-19 spread continued around the world, sending people into their homes, social distancing. The tool, already used by companies, was quickly adopted by people, going from 10 million users in December to 200 million by April 2020. Those who had never heard of the company, particularly friends and family members, began scheduling Zoom events, including birthday parties, graduation ceremonies and even weddings all over Zoom.

But some issues began to pop up immediately, people somehow getting onto calls who were not invited, and Zoom has even faced a lawsuit over its lack of security.

Zoom then bought encryption firm Keybase in May, and announced at the time that it would start offering end-trend encryption on its platform. They said the company wouldn't create backdoors into these encrypted meetings and at the time also stated that the feature would be for paid accounts.

Schools, though, and other groups who have access to the business tier of Zoom — but don't pay for those plans — will be able to use end-to-end-encryption too, said Stamos.


But Zoom is keeping free users out because they're concerned about the misuse of its platform by those who get on the video conferencing for reasons like Zoombombing, when they interrupt other video calls, where they're not invited, sometimes with offensive language and imagery. Stamos also noted that Zoom is aware that meetings could be set up to allow people "to facilitate really horrible abuse," he tweeted.

Stamos notes that by limiting the end-to-end encryption from those who use the free platform, Zoom believes it may be able to limit these kinds of concerns.

"Will this eliminate all abuse?," Stamos said. "No, but since the vast majority of harm comes from self-service users with fake identities this will create friction and reduce harm."

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