The Associate Dean of Social Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has filed a proposed class action in which he alleges Zoom’s inadequate privacy protections allowed a “known offender” to “Zoombomb” an April 30 webinar and force participants to watch disturbing pornographic video.
Echoing a bevy of lawsuits against Zoom Video Communications in recent months, the 61-page lawsuit charges Zoom is far from the secure videoconferencing platform the defendant makes it out to be. The case relays that the plaintiff, an accredited scholar, is among many other users, including schoolchildren, who have been subjected to “deeply disturbing and traumatic” experiences as a result of Zoom’s failure to maintain adequate and effective security.
As the complaint tells it, Zoom’s platform, contrary to the defendant’s promises, is not encrypted end to end, which allows both the company and unauthorized third parties to spy on video conferences without consent. The lawsuit adds that given the extent to which Zoom collects and shares user data with third parties without permission, millions of users continue to conduct business on the platform while myriad privacy and security vulnerabilities go unremedied.
In all, millions of users nationwide registered with Zoom under the false belief that the platform was safe enough to conduct all manner of business while much of the country remained under various levels of lockdown amid the COVID-19 crisis, the complaint alleges.
As part of his career as an educator, the plaintiff conducts seminars and training in person and online to educate underserved communities, encouraging higher education and online learning, the lawsuit says. On March 23, the man upgraded his Zoom account to “premium” status while paying an additional charge to be able to host up to 500 participants at once, the suit continues.
According to the complaint, the plaintiff and more than 400 participants, mostly public school teachers, had their screens and control buttons hijacked during a free April 30 webinar before being forced to watch graphic video footage with full audio. During the break-in, which started roughly 15 minutes after the webinar began, neither the plaintiff nor other participants were able to minimize or close their video screens, the case adds.
“The footages were beyond perverse, portraying an adult engaging in a sexual act on an infant,” the lawsuit states, adding that the plaintiff and webinar participants were Zoombombed twice within minutes. After many attempts, the plaintiff was eventually able to lock the meeting and eliminate the intruder, according to the suit.
Though the plaintiff attempted to console the webinar attendees and immediately reached out to Zoom demanding the defendant rectify the situation and bolster its security, the company “did nothing,” the case claims. Upon information and belief, the graphic images the plaintiff and other participants were forced to endure were the same as those at the center of a similar lawsuit filed against Zoom in mid-May.
According to the complaint, the importance of Zoom’s security “cannot be overstated” given the platform has come to be used not just by throngs of consumers stuck at home, but by critical government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Homeland Security, tasked with battling the COVID-19 crisis. Notwithstanding the responsibility laid before Zoom in ensuring its platform is secure, the defendant, the lawsuit argues, appears “to not care very much at all about security and privacy issues” as far as members of the general public are concerned.
ClassAction.org’s coverage of COVID-19 litigation can be found here and over on our Newswire.