Another dot in the blogosphere?


Posted on: March 30, 2020

Am I anti-Zoom? It might seem so given what I have shared about it [1] [2] [3] and what I have tweeted.

The administrative settings are something that can be negotiated with the IT group that oversees it. But if the articles are right, then Zoom is a company to worry about.

Problem 1: It does not appear to respect user privacy if it shares iOS user data with Facebook even if those users do not have Facebook account.

Problem 2: Even as it rides the wave of popularity now, Zoom does not appear to be repentant about shortcomings in the past. Consider what this BBC article highlighted:

Zoom has had security flaws in the past, including a vulnerability which allowed an attacker to remove attendees from meetings, spoof messages from users and hijack shared screens. Another saw Mac users forced into calls without their knowledge.

All these were patched but some experts still think that the firm has a rather blase attitude to security.

“Zoom has had a chequered history, security-wise, with a number of instances where one has had to question whether it really gets it when it comes to users’ privacy and security,” said cyber-consultant Graham Cluley.

Despite the strong claims, these are not direct evidence. The claims need to be followed up and investigated, and Zoom needs to be more transparent. So I take these reports at face value at best.

However, I am reluctant to use tools that I have not personally evaluated and selected as powerful examples of educational technology. I worry about tools that have been decided upon largely by urgency, financial cost, or administrative needs.

I borrow an idea from Martin Weller’s recent reflection on the value of personal platforms over institutional ones.

Organisations, particularly higher education ones can be slow to react. Someone commented once that the OU was like the army or the health care system, it took its time but when all those elements aligned it was powerful, robust and effective…

However, like many of my fellow academics, I’ve been receiving individual requests to help… this is where having your own platform comes in useful. It is another instance of the principle… of not needing permission. By having a blog, Twitter and other tools… you can effect some form of Guerrilla Support without needing to seek permission to use official tools, to check server loads, ask for IT set up or removal of existing access limits.

I could not agree more. But I also see the value in extending the tools and platforms I use beyond individual requests and “guerrilla support”. The very same tools that Weller mentioned can be used in conjunction with (or even replace) institutional ones.

I did not require the affordances of Zoom. I certainly did not like being made to attend the party of the winner of a popularity contest only to find out that the winner had questionable traits.

So, am I anti-Zoom? No. I am against being blind-sided.

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