Zoom debacle serves as a reminder—read the fine print

Zoom debacle serves as a reminder—read the fine print

August 22, 2023

A significant amount of buzz has been generated in recent days from news coverage suggesting that Zoom, the meeting platform with more than 300 million daily users, could be using data collected from its customers for a variety of reasons, including to train AI bots.

This news quickly went viral on social media. Initial reports suggested that users of the platform could not opt out of this option, meaning their content was fair game for Zoom to do with as it pleased, including feeding it to the robots.

Within days of the story breaking, Zoom posted a blog, authored by the company’s Chief Product Officer, Smita Hashim, in which she pushed back against claims of tricking customers into allowing their data to be used to train AI.

While at the moment Zoom appears to have addressed the concerns of many of its users, its amended terms and conditions nonetheless raise an important issue for users of any technology platform to consider– know what you are agreeing to before you agree to it. That might sound obvious, but all too often we sign agreements or click on a box to acknowledge our consent to terms of use which contain one-sided language, broad license agreements and unfair dispute resolution provisions.

In the case of Zoom, section 10 in their new terms of service agreement included this language as recently as a few weeks ago: 

You agree to grant and hereby grant Zoom a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license and all other rights required or necessary to redistribute, publish, import, access, use, store, transmit, review, disclose, preserve, extract, modify, reproduce, share, use, display, copy, distribute, translate, transcribe, create derivative works, and process Customer Content and to perform all acts with respect to the Customer Content, including AI and ML training and testing.

Visit Zoom’s terms of service page today and you will see that, in the wake of the public outcry, that language has been scrubbed and replaced with significantly watered-down terms. While that is good news for the consumer, it bears mentioning that millions of users had likely already signed off on the old language.

Pundits can, and will, debate the ethics of Zoom’s previous policy, and rightfully so. But for consumers, it comes back to the simple but crucial reminder to never sign something you haven’t read.

David H. Elibol is the Managing Attorney of Gross Shuman P.C. Dave focuses his practice on business contracts and litigation, including shareholder disputes, business divorce, and contract disputes. He has successfully represented individuals and businesses in jury and non-jury trials and in other proceedings in both state and federal court.  He can be reached at 716-854-4300 ext. 201 or [email protected]