Zoom’s Boom

Typing “Zoom hacking” into Google will yield you 113,000,000 results. Going a step broader, and typing “Zoom privacy” will pull up 1,390,000,000 results. So, what’s the big deal with this Zoom thing anyways?

Odds are that you’ve taken part in at least one conference call, fitness class, or family meet-up on the Zoom app. Zoom is one of the many apps that people are finding to be godsends while we are stuck indoors. Zoom’s function is very simple. You get a group of people together via an invite link, and have a video-conferencing call. It couldn’t be simpler, really. Is that where things go wrong?

In the past week, Zoom has been under intense scrutiny, particularly for how they handle user privacy. The backlash has even pushed Zoom’s CEO to admit that he “really messed up.”

Like Facebook, Zoom’s privacy policy included the right to collect data, store it, and share it with third-parties such as advertisers. This ‘data’ includes your name and location. Most companies request this data. So, what makes Zoom different? Zoom’s right to collect your data also included “the content contained in cloud recordings and instant messages, files, [and] whiteboards…shared while using the service.” Still feel great about using Zoom?

Another issue is something called “Zoombombing”. Similar to photo-bombing and party-crashing, Zoombombing occurs when an uninvited guest joins your Zoom meeting. Also similar to photo-bombing and party-crashing, Zoombombing can be aggravating and disruptive. Zoombombers can join a Zoom meeting simply by acquiring the invite link, which may have been forwarded one too many times by a real guest. Zoombombers have been known to broadcast pornographic, racist, or otherwise vitriolic content. These incidents have prompted Boston’s FBI office to issue warnings about Zoom.

So, how can you stay safe on Zoom? And, what is Zoom doing to fix their clear issues? As bad as all of this sounds, Zoom has made huge improvements in their handling of privacy, as well as implementing strong procedures to protect against unwanted guests.

For starters, this week Zoom revised their privacy policy. Zoom no longer has rights to distribute users’ personal data. It will no longer store and keep any names or locations of users. Further, Zoom wants you to know that “your meetings are yours” and they “do not monitor them or even store them after your meeting is done”.

As for the Zoombombing issue, Zoom has added two big safeguards to protect against these unwanted guests. Firstly, Zoom users must enter a meeting-specific password when joining a meeting. Secondly, Zoom now uses a virtual waiting room, which allows the host to see participants before allowing them access to the meeting. This virtual staging area will be crucial in stopping unwanted guests from entering a public meeting.

We should also take steps personally to prevent Zoombombers. Make sure that you have mastered the use of Zoom before hosting a large or public meeting. For example, did you know that by clicking on a participant’s name, you can mute them, or prevent screen sharing? Remember not to let the Trojan horse into your Zoom meeting. Keep a close eye on your guests, and if you see something, say something. Zoom can be a safe and important tool for us, especially at this critical time. Just make sure that you are cautious and alert while on a Zoom meeting. Now, when you’ve mastered Zoom, take a deep breath in, and enjoy your Zoom yoga session, 18th work meeting this week, happy hour, or that family meet-up with your in-laws, and that weird uncle that you “really don’t want to attend. I’m tired,” (Smile — If you’re lucky, the host is using a basic account, and the meeting can only last 40 minutes).

Visit Our Museums — Virtually!

Did you know: the Abbot Public Library offers free or reduced passes to fourteen of the Boston area’s best museums and attractions?

While these organizations are closed for the time being, they have been working hard behind-the-scenes to bring the museum experience to your home! We will be collecting fun activities and virtual tours created by museum staff and sharing them here with you, along with ways to get the most out of your virtual visit using the library’s digital services. In the meantime, please show our museum partners some love by visiting their websites and social media — there is a lot of wonderful content to find there!

To stay inspired and engaged at home, check out these websites: 

Boston by Foot

Boston Children’s Museum

Cape Ann Museum (our newest museum pass!)

deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum

Harvard Art Museums

The House of the Seven Gables

Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

Arctic Fox at Stone Zoo

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum

Museum of Fine Arts

Museum of Science

New England Aquarium

Peabody Essex Museum

Zoo New England

Check back here to the Abbot Public Library Blog for other ways to use the library and to enjoy cultural institutions from home!

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum