Zoom is addressing privacy concerns raised by the AI ​​data collection language associated with the service

A recent change to the app's terms of service added language asking users for consent to share their data for AI training.

Aug 12, 2023 - 14:22
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Zoom is addressing privacy concerns raised by the AI ​​data collection language associated with the service

Video conferencing app Zoom said on Monday that it will not use customer data to train artificial intelligence without their consent, responding to growing customer privacy concerns over new language in the app's terms of service.

In Section 10.4 of Zoom's Terms of Service, updated in March, users agree to grant Zoom a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable license for various purposes, including "machine learning, artificial intelligence, training." , testing, improvement or any combination of the Services, Software or other Zoom products, services and software.

An article in tech publication Stack Diary highlighted the updated terms that raised concerns.

Zoom now uses artificial intelligence, such as Zoom IQ Meeting Summary, which provides automatic meeting summaries, and services such as automatic scanning of webinar invitations to detect spam activity, product manager Smita Hashim said in a blog post Monday.

The blog post highlighted that meeting administrators can choose not to share meeting summaries with Zoom. Meeting members with non-admins will be notified of Zoom's new information sharing policies and given the option to accept or leave the meetings. "Zoom customers decide whether to adopt generative AI capabilities and in particular whether to share customer content with Zoom to improve the product," a Zoom representative said in a statement. "We've updated our terms of service to confirm that we don't use audio, video or chat client content to train our AI models without your consent."

But privacy advocates and some Zoom users are sounding the alarm, saying the new language needs to be revised. Some users said they would cancel their Zoom accounts, while others called on Zoom to change its terms or offer everyone, not just meeting administrators, the option to opt out of using their data for AI training. It is optional to use Zoom's artificial intelligence features that trigger data collection. Despite the company's statement about the update, users continued to air their concerns online.

The criticism highlights growing public scrutiny of AI, particularly concerns about how people's data and content could be used to train large AI models without their consent or compensation.

Janet Haven, executive director of the nonprofit think tank Data and Society and a member of the National AI Initiative Advisory Committee, said concerns about the emerging technology extend beyond Zoom's terms of service and represent longstanding data privacy concerns.

"I think the main thing is that we don't have a community law in place and strong, which means that people have to respond individually. And that's a real problem with terms of service," said Haven. Aric Toler, director of education and research at Bellingcat, an open-source science publication, said Bellingcat no longer uses Zoom Pro, which costs $149.90 a year per user, even though Zoom has assured users that it does not use customer data without consent.

"While current terms of service restrictions prevent AI from only participating in data, it's still a concern enough that it's better to remove it now than later when there are more troubling developments," Toler said. Bellingcat relies on Zoom to conduct training sessions and webinars for hundreds of journalists, researchers and students, Toler said. He said Bellingcat is investigating other video messaging platforms, such as Jitsi Meet, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, and reviewing its data practices.

Toler's comments echoed across social media, which Haven said reflected "a growing public perception of the lack of comprehensive data protections we have by law."

Gabriella Coleman, an anthropology professor at Harvard University and lecturer at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, said in a post on the social platform X formerly known as Twitter that garnered 1.3 million views: "It's time to retire @Zoom. who basically wants to use/abuse you to train their AI using,” in response to a Stack Diary article. In another X post, writer and director Justine Bateman wrote that she will never use @Zoom again until the company changes its updated terms that allow it to use customer content and data to train AI.

Haven said the backlash from Zoom customers is not unexpected given the lack of privacy laws and regulations around artificial intelligence.

"Regardless of what Zoom's explanation was, I think what really sparked the public conversation was the discomfort that so many people feel when they realize that our laws don't protect us from any kind of misuse of our data," Haven said.

Bogdana Rakova, a senior trusted AI researcher at the Mozilla Foundation, a nonprofit that publishes AI research projects, said the integration of AI into companies' products and services should lead to greater transparency and public debate.

Rakova said that people do not pay attention to the terms of service and do not always receive information about changing them. Zoom's terms of use were changed in March and went into effect on July 27.

"We are dealing with documents that are deliberately written in such a way that no sane person would spend time looking at them," said Rakova. "It's not clear when people will be notified of the changes, and that makes things very difficult for consumers and puts the burden on consumers to deal with it themselves. It's very difficult."

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