Zoom’s recent update to their Terms of Service is raising red flags all across social media.
The Terms of Service stated that you grant Zoom the “perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license and all other rights required or necessary” to customer content for several purposes, including “machine learning” and, more explicitly, “artificial intelligence”. Furthermore, Zoom can use specific user data for “machine learning or artificial intelligence (including for the purposes of training and tuning of algorithms and models).”
This latest development was first noticed by a freelance software developer and spread like wildfire across social media, understandably raising alarm bells for several online users on platforms like Twitter, with several people stating that they will stop using Zoom until these “over-reading permissions” are taken down.
— Justine Bateman (@JustineBateman) August 7, 2023
As the outrage and backlash grew on social media, Zoom responded with a blog post that tried “further clarity” the situation and clear the air. They stressed in bold that, “For AI, we do not use audio, video, or chat content for training our models without customer consent.”
However, this does not clear up things completely. They reiterated that customers own their content, even though Zoom has “permission to use this customer content to provide added-value service”. Zoom has also clarified that the section that spoke about AI training references “certain information about how our customers in the aggregate use our product,”, meaning service-generated data. Additionally, Zoom noted that if their users consent to using Zoom’s generative AI features (a meeting summary tool, for example), users will be given a choice to share that content for training its AI, giving them the option to turn access to data on or off.
While Zoom wishes to be more transparent with customers, the relatively ambiguous language makes the long-lasting implications of these changes difficult to accurately predict, and several social media users remain skeptical.
What specific permissions do the usage rights include for content used in delivering a machine learning service? While they stress that the user owns their content, Zoom now has a license to use that content in generative AI features. 3/ pic.twitter.com/q4i8CMoYkx
— Bogdana Rakova (@bobirakova) August 7, 2023
There are certainly some problems that Zoom’s latest developments can pose to its participants, regardless of the firm’s intentions. For example, if a meeting organizer decides to use the meeting summary feature, participants will be notified that an AI feature has been enabled and their data can potentially be shared for AI training. After this, they are prompted to continue with the meeting or leave, an exceptionally difficult choice for those who are uncomfortable with AI. Thus, it entirely is possible that the wording of Zoom’s new terms of service will give the company wider control over its consumers’ personal data than they say they will use.
Only time will tell if Zoom’s words will reassure customers or be implemented properly.