Schools, businesses and individuals are making drastic changes right now due to concerns surrounding COVID-19. Some of the protective measures, such as social distancing and self-isolation, translate to technology picking up the slack to keep businesses and education moving forward. However, that is leading to privacy issues particularly around kids using technology not originally intended to be utilized in the new manner many have taken to using some platforms.
One platform stepping in to fill the need is Zoom, a videoconferencing tool that allows users to talk, video chat, instant message and even screen-share in real-time. This long-time business tool is now being used for everything from online classes to social get-togethers, but malicious users have already figured out how to crash virtual meetings.
A new practice, known as “zoom-bombing,” happens when an uninvited user works their way into a user’s Zoom session and causes a disruption. Reports so far have included “bombers” dropping in and writing racial slurs across the screen, posting pornographic images for all the viewers to see and more.
Zoom was created to allow businesses to communicate quickly, effectively and on-the-go. Because of that, creating an account was set up to be very simple and does not require much authentication. Now that more people are using the platform, including teachers for grades K-12, and finding creative uses for this tool, the concern about privacy, and especially that of children, is even more real.
In fact, some Zoom conferences hosting children have already been compromised. Recently a Zoom conference with students from the Orange County Public School System in Florida was disrupted after an uninvited guest exploited himself to the class. In Boston, a group of students shared inappropriate content.
Zoom is working on a fix that will help stop intrusions and increase security, particularly child privacy, making it important that users download any updates issued by Zoom. Before using the platform, users can also take precautions by changing the default security settings. That includes updating the use of a password to enter the conference, using the “waiting room” feature to screen participants and only allowing authenticated users to join the meeting.
Users can also be more aware of how they are engaging with other people with their Zoom accounts. Ultimately, the platform relies on each user making smart decisions about how they are sharing their meeting rooms. Some child privacy aspects to consider:
- Making sure to not share meeting invites with others on public profiles, such as inviting others to attend on social media
- Teachers hosting Zoom meetings are encouraged to change the platform’s default settings before each session
This is an important reminder that this type of technology, especially platforms that function online and are accessible by other users, can have serious privacy ramifications. As many public schools and activity groups are now using Zoom to interact with children, it is even more important that users understand how to protect themselves. Parents should make it a habit to remain nearby while their children are on Zoom in order to end the session immediately if something unexpected takes place.
To increase child privacy, parents are encouraged to talk to their kids about proper online conduct before any virtual meeting. It is also recommended that if someone’s child is going to interact with other children on Zoom, parents should remind their kids that the same rules that apply in the classroom – or other in-person meetings – apply on Zoom.
If people have questions regarding their privacy on social media or accounts, they can live chat with an expert ITRC advisor at no-cost.
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