Copyright © 2020 - Ex Gratia Law Journal

Privacy Concerns in the Zoom App. and Its Usage at the Time of Pandemic

1. INTRODUCTION:

The Zoom app is one of the marvellous creation which has helped to connect families and to conduct office meetings, host webinars, to conduct online classes and for various other purposes at this time. There are certain countries like Taiwan and Singapore which has already banned the app in their country.[1] There are many users in our country especially considering the fact there was eighteen percent total download from India in the entire usage followed by the United States in April. [2] Thus it is an alarming situation where the privacy and security of the users are in stake, The app developers have come with various updates and modifications to make the public and users believe the app is safe, which is not reliable. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has sent a notification to the users in April to educate the users about this threat and how it affects their privacy.

2. THE CONCEPT OF PRIVACY AND INDIAN JUDICIARY:

The right to privacy has been held as a fundamental right in India very recently. There are various cases which have discussed various aspects of the concept of privacy, The famous judgment of  K.S.Puttuswami v. Union of India,[3] which is a landmark judgment in this regard which was passed in the year 2017, upheld that right to privacy is a fundamental right. This right was though given importance was not considered as fundamental before the judgment. The right to privacy as defined in the Blackstone’s law dictionary as” the right of a person to be free from any unnecessary intrusion” is an apt definition in this regard.

The right to privacy is essential in various aspects of human life and it helps the person to lead their life peacefully. The right to privacy has been guaranteed after a long struggle. This concept was rejected by the eight bench judges in the case of M.P Sharma v. Satish Chandra.[4] This again became a key issue in the case of Kharak Singh v. Union of India,[5] where the right to privacy was not considered as a fundamental right. This situation was altered only when the judgment, K.S Puttuswami. J Judgement, overruled these two cases.

The famous case of R.M.Malkani v. the State of Maharastra[6], the court held that telephone tapping by political officials using unlawful methods is a violation of the right to privacy. The telephone conservations are regarded to be private and it is unlawful usage and recording is a great threat to privacy. Thus the zoom app where various concerns are raised about security and leaking sensitive information is a serious threat to the right to privacy which is enshrined in Article 21 of the Indian Constitution and is also a part of the golden triangle.

3. ISSUES FACED BY THE USERS ACROSS THE GLOBE:

There are various issues faced by users across the globe. This app is also banned in various schools in New York and Space X. The users have raised the issues of “zoom bombing” where the participants of the meetings, who are unauthorized, hijack the call and bombard the other members of the meeting with unnecessary and pornographic contents. These incidents have been increasing lately and are a major concern, even though there are facilities like the waiting room in the app to avoid such blunders these incidents still happen. There was a lawsuit filed against the app in San Francisco, where the suit was filed by San Francisco Church which complained about the hacking issue in the app. There also various concerns about sharing of personal information of the users with Facebook, these issues are there even when the user does not have a Facebook account. It is a well-known fact that there are various lawsuits filed on Facebook for stealing personal data and sharing the personal details of the users without proper authorization. Thus the problems are not only faced by the users of our country and it is a worldwide issue. The app is banned in various companies and countries like NASA, government agencies in Taiwan, German Foreign Ministry, Australian defence force and United State Senate.

4. MAIN ISSUES IN THE ZOOM APP AND NOTIFICATION:

The Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-in) is the focal cyber protection agency in our country and this agency has raised various concerns about that app and its susceptibility. The agency has raised various issues like cyber attacks and leakage of important and secret information especially to criminals which would be a great threat to the individual and the society. The Cyber Coordination Centre of the Ministry of Home Affairs has sent an advisory in this regard about how unsafe the app is and they have also issued various guidelines to protect the users from the threat.

The guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs are as follows:

  • Creation of new password and I.D for every meeting;
  • Creation of waiting room;
  • Allowing the entry of authorized persons and the persons involved in the meeting;
  • Disabling Join feature before hosting;
  • Providing various powers like screen sharing only to the host;
  • Restricting and disabling file transfer;
  • Locking the meeting room to prevent the entry of unauthorized persons;
  • Restriction in record feature.

There are also similar apps like zoom which perform the same function and very safe, the users can also prefer those apps if needed. It is important to follow the guidelines and restrictions provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs to avoid further issues especially during these times as every meeting especially official meeting is hosted in that app. The host of the meeting should take special care in the admission of persons and ending of the meeting and they have to make sure the members have quit the meeting properly. As a famous saying goes, prevention is better than cure, it is good to be cautious at the beginning stage rather than suffering damages and privacy threats.

5. LEGAL PETITION IN THE SUPREME COURT

A legal petition was filed by Mr. Harsh Chung (petitioner), who is a tutor residing in Delhi has filed the petition for banning of the app stating various security reason and threat to the concept of the right to privacy. The Supreme Court of India has admitted the petition to ban the zoom app in India.  The Supreme Court has asked the response of the Central Government in this regard and also the response of Zoom Video Communications Inc for banning the app. The notice regarding the case was issued by a three-judge panel which is headed by Chief Justice S.A Bobde. The petitioner of the case has argued that the app should be banned for both unofficial and private purposes until there is a proper law to address the security concerns which are raised. There is no further development in the petition filed in our country, as the Supreme Court is waiting for the responses of the Government and the Zoom video communications which is the developer of the app.

6. CONCLUSION

The Zoom is thus a serious threat to the privacy of the citizens. The privacy is invaluable and the struggle to make this right as a fundamental right is very well known to every citizen of the country. Thus it is important the right has to be protected and it should not be affected by any external factors by any means. Thus the app can be banned for a limited period and can be used again once it is found to be completely safe. It is a valid argument that the developers of the app will also have a freedom of occupation and right to trade, but their right would be only affected if the ban is permanent. The Supreme Court of India has to take an urgent decision on this issue as the users of the app are increasing day by day. There should also be proper awareness provided to the users regarding the nature of the app as many of them are still not aware of the issue. Thus the prime deciding authority of the country has to decide in this regard and should the guarantee the right to privacy provided to the citizens.


[1]  Zoom video-conferencing app is not a safe platform, Home Ministry cautions users, The Economic Times (Apr 29, 2020, 11:54 AM IST), https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/tech/internet/zoom-video-conferencing-app-is-not-a-safe-plarform-home-ministry-cautions-users/articleshow/75181094.cms?from=mdr

[2] Id.

[3] K.S.Puttuswami v. Union of India, (2017) 10 SCC 1 (India).

[4] M.P Sharma v. Satish Chandra, A.I.R .1954 S.C 300 (India).

[5] Kharak Singh v. Union of India, A.I.R. 1963 S.C 1295 (India).

[6] R.M.Malkani v. the State of Maharastra, A.I.R. 1973 S.C. 157 (India).

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Author

Sri Sai Kamalini
Student - SASTRA Deemed to be University