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San Francisco church sues Zoom app after porn clips appear during online Bible class, says the company refused to take any action

According to the church, the company told them the culprit was a "known criminal", and that he had been blocked, but they “refused to take any further action to remedy the situation or to improve the security of its videoconferences.”

Criticism against the video conferencing Zoom app, the usage of which has increased multifold in the wake of coronavirus lockdown in most part of the world, has been on the rise. The latest to join the chorus of complaints is one of the oldest church in San Francisco- Saint Paulus Lutheran Church. The church has sued Zoom for “Zoombombing” a bible lesson class with pornography.

According to the complaint filed by the church in federal court, the incident happened on May 6 when a bible lesson was hijacked by attackers. The screens of the participants and their and buttons were disabled, after which porn clips appeared on the screens. This happened twice during the lesson, after which the class was suspended.

The complaint filed read: “The footages were sick and sickening — portraying adults engaging in sex acts with each other and performing sex acts on infants and children, in addition to physically abusing them.” The lawsuit accuses the San Jose-based video conferencing tech giant of violating “the sanctity of the church”.

The complaint further read that immediately after shutting down the virtual class, the participants of which were mostly senior citizens, the Saint Paulus Lutheran Church got on touch with Zoom Video Communications Inc for assistance, “but Zoom did nothing”, read the complaint. According to the church, the company told them the culprit was a “known criminal”, and that he had been blocked, but they “refused to take any further action to remedy the situation or to improve the security of its videoconferences.”

Zoom’s popularity in educational institutions, government and private sectors surged during lockdowns in many countries. However, numerous security concerns related to the app have emerged. From “zoombombing” or hackers entering private chat rooms to selling of user data, the app has faced several criticisms.

India shuns Zoom, turn to Vidyo app

A host of privacy concerns related to virtual meetings of top government officials during the coronavirus pandemic has compelled India also to turn to Vidyo, a video conferencing application vetted by the National Informatics Centre (NIC). Last month, the union home ministry had issued an advisory against using the Zoom app, terming it “not safe.” After the advisory, various govt departments and organisations, schools and colleges, as well as the private sector had also stopped using the app.

Singapore, Google and others bans using the services provided by Zoom

Prior to this Singapore had banned the use of the app after hackers hijacked a lesson and showed obscene images to students. 

Before this, there were reports that Google has barred employees from using Zoom on company computers. The company had alerted employees last week that it would disable the service, citing security vulnerabilities.

The Taiwan cabinet had also asked its government agencies to stop using Zoom Video Communications Inc’s conferencing app and other video software “associated security or privacy concerns”. An advisory was issued by the Taiwan government on Tuesday proscribing the country’s government agencies from using Zoom while urging the usage of alternative apps from Google and Microsoft.

Besides, the governments of other countries have also forbidden their agencies from using Zoom. The New York City officials have restricted the usage of Zoom by schools for remote teaching and Australia’s Defence forces and its MPs are barred from using the services provided by Zoom.

Acknowledging the security concerns with his services, Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan had apologised for the company’s privacy and security flaws and assured that they are looking into each and every one of them and addressing them as expeditiously as they can.

Soon after the usage of Zoom increased multifold in the wake of coronavirus lockdown in most part of the world, “ZoomBombing” became an issue as people started using the software’s screen-sharing feature to interrupt meeting with inappropriate content, including violent images and pornography. According to The Intercept, Zoom video calls are not end-to-end encrypted as the company claimed and are linked to China. A few days ago, Citizen Lab researchers discovered that some of the calls through the service were routed through China.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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