Zoom updates terms for using customer data after AI privacy concerns

8 Aug 2023

Image: © yalcinsonat/Stock.adobe.com

The popular video conferencing platform has been criticised for using customers’ data without getting consent.

Zoom has received criticism for its use of customers’ data without consent to train AI models.

The video conferencing platform announced new AI-powered features in March of this year and, at the same time, updated its terms of service.

A Stack Diary article published yesterday (7 August) drew attention to what it called “a significant invasion of user privacy” in Zoom’s updated terms of service in which the company outlined how it could collect and use customers’ data without mention of customer consent.

In section 10.4 of the terms, it states that customers “grant Zoom a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable and transferable license … to display, copy, distribute, translate, transcribe, create derivative works and process customer content” including “for the purpose of product and service development, marketing, analytics, quality assurance, machine learning, artificial intelligence, training, testing, improvement of the services, software, or Zoom’s other products, services and software, or any combination thereof”.

In response to the controversy, Zoom added a line to this section yesterday to make it clear that this is an option that customers can consent to:

“Notwithstanding the above, Zoom will not use audio, video or chat customer content to train our artificial intelligence models without your consent.”

Zoom’s chief product officer Smita Hashim also responded with a blogpost. Hashim said: “We changed our terms of service in March 2023 to be more transparent about how we use and who owns the various forms of content across our platform.”

As with many other companies, Zoom distinguishes between ‘customer content’ and ‘service-generated data’. According to Zoom, service-generated data includes “certain information about how our customers in the aggregate use our product – telemetry, diagnostic data etc”. Zoom considers this to be their data and so will continue to collect and use this data without customer consent.

Customer content includes video, audio and chat content users have created. Hashim explained that: “We have permission to use this customer content to provide value-added services based on this content, but our customers continue to own and control their content.”

Hashim said: “We will not use customer content, including education records or protected health information, to train our artificial intelligence models without your consent.”

Regarding the use of the generative AI features introduced in March, Hashim stated that “Zoom account owners and administrators control whether to enable these AI features for their accounts.”

“When you choose to enable Zoom IQ Meeting Summary or Zoom IQ Team Chat Compose, you will also be presented with a transparent consent process for training our AI models using your customer content.”

“Your content is used solely to improve the performance and accuracy of these AI services. And even if you chose to share your data, it will not be used for training of any third-party models.”

Zoom partnered with ChatGPT creator OpenAI to build these AI features. The leading AI company is also being scrutinised regarding privacy concerns. It faces copyright lawsuits and has been accused of scraping the internet for data to train its AI models. The US Federal Trade Commission launched an in-depth investigation last month to determine how OpenAI addresses risks to consumers.

10 things you need to know direct to your inbox every weekday. Sign up for the Daily Brief, Silicon Republic’s digest of essential sci-tech news.

Rebecca Graham is production editor at Silicon Republic