The parties handling more than a dozen lawsuits over widespread incidents of “Zoombombing” and unauthorized data sharing have agreed to a proposed $85 million settlement. But that doesn’t mean cash from the settlement is on its way to your checking account just yet. Why’s that, you ask?
Although the parties have asked for preliminary approval of the proposed deal—which aims to wrap up litigation that alleged Zoom improperly shared users’ data with third parties without consent and misrepresented the strength of its data security—United States District Judge Lucy H. Koh still has to formally sign off on it. This is a rudimentary but crucial step in the typical class action settlement process. A hearing to decide whether the deal deserves preliminary approval is tentatively scheduled for October 21, 2021.
If you’ve used Zoom at any point since March 2016, here’s what you need to know about the settlement.
Be sure to scroll down to learn how to claim your money from the “Zoombombing” settlement and what the deal means for your privacy on the virtual meeting platform.
So, the settlement terms are not final?
Not quite, at least not yet.
In a typical case, the parties handling a class action will first submit to the court a motion for preliminary settlement approval, a document formally asking the judge to sign off on a settlement and allow those covered by the deal (aka class members) to submit their claims for compensation.
This is where we’re at with the “Zoombombing” and data privacy settlement; the parties have simply asked for it to be approved. What comes next is a hearing at which the judge will either grant the deal “preliminary approval,” allowing a settlement website to go live and giving consumers their chance to file claims, or send the parties back with an outline of what she thinks needs to be addressed or changed.
The proposed deal, reached as the result of “extensive, arms-length negotiations” spanning nine months, looks to cover all persons in the United States who, between March 30, 2016 and July 30, 2021, registered, used, opened or downloaded the Zoom Meetings app, including those who signed up for the free tier, court documents say.
Excluded from participating in the settlement are those who have registered, used, opened or downloaded the Zoom app through an enterprise-level account or a Zoom for Government account.
All class members, i.e., those who are covered by the settlement, are eligible for payment through the deal, regardless of whether they actually paid for a Zoom account, court documents share.
“The Settlement presents an excellent recovery and delivers tangible and immediate benefits to the Settlement Class, particularly considering the substantial risks protracted litigation would present,” the motion for preliminary approval reads. “The Court should grant preliminary approval.”
How much will I get from the Zoom settlement?
Settlement documents state that all class members who paid for a Zoom account will be eligible to receive 15 percent of whatever they paid for their core Zoom Meetings subscription during the time period outlined above or $25, whichever is greater.
Those who did not have paid subscriptions can file a “user claim” for $15. Amounts to be recovered through the settlement will be adjusted on a pro rata basis, depending on the number of claims filed, related court expenses and the fees awarded to attorneys and class reps, and other factors.
Any settlement funds that do not find their way to Zoom users will be distributed as a cy pres award to the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Electronic Privacy Information Center, two non-profits whose work deals directly in online privacy protection.
How do I get my Zoom settlement money?
If the deal is OK’d in October, Zoom will provide the company administering the settlement (not us) with the contact information of those who qualify for compensation. Covered Zoom users will then receive via email or regular mail a class action notice that outlines how to submit a claim and get more information. Notice will also be shared via digital and print media “in a manner specifically designed to reach Class Members.”
Once the settlement is preliminarily approved and notices are sent out, eligible consumers will be able to go to the official settlement website—ZoomMeetingsClassAction.com—and file their claims. As of this writing, the settlement website has yet to go live.
ClassAction.org will update this page as necessary, so be sure to check back often. In the meantime, sign up for our free weekly newsletter here to have the latest news and information sent right to your inbox.
What does the settlement do for my privacy?
In addition to providing monetary relief, Zoom has agreed to implement more than a dozen “major changes” to overhaul its meeting security, bolster privacy disclosures and better safeguard user data.
For example, Zoom agreed to provide in-meeting notifications to make it easier for users to understand who can see, save, and share Zoom users’ information and content by alerting users when a meeting host or another participant uses a third-party application during a meeting.”
Zoom has also agreed to:
Ensure its privacy statement discloses the ability of users to share data with third parties via integrations of third-party software, or to otherwise record and/or transcribe meetings;
Develop and maintain “documented protocols and procedures” for admitting third party apps for dissemination to users through Zoom’s marketplace for at least three years;
Not integrate the Facebook software development kit (SDK) for iOS into Zoom meetings for a year and request that Facebook delete any user data obtained from the SDK;
Develop and maintain a ticket support system to communicate with users about meeting disruptions and track complaints;
Develop and maintain a documented process for communicating meeting disruptions involving illegal content to law enforcement, and establish a dedicated team in charge of reporting serial meeting disrupters;
Develop and maintain security features such as waiting rooms for meeting attendees, a “suspend meeting activities” button and the ability to block users from specific countries for a minimum of three years; and
Better educate users about the security features available to them to protect meeting privacy.
What happens next?
As we stated earlier, Judge Koh will decide whether to give the deal the preliminary green light at a hearing on October 21, 2021. If and when the deal gets her OK, the official settlement website will likely go live and eligible Zoom users will be able to file their claims for compensation. Until then, Zoom users can only sit tight.
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