Supreme Court seeks response from Centre on PIL seeking ban on Zoom app

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Published: May 23, 2020 3:00:53 AM

The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Centre on a PIL seeking a ban on the Zoom app for both government and private use until an appropriate legislation is framed, citing privacy and security concerns.

Besides, Zoom founder and CEO Eric S Yuan has already apologised publicly and accepted the app to be faulty in terms of providing a secure environment digitally, which is against the norms of cyber security, the plea said.Besides, Zoom founder and CEO Eric S Yuan has already apologised publicly and accepted the app to be faulty in terms of providing a secure environment digitally, which is against the norms of cyber security, the plea said.

The Supreme Court on Friday sought response from the Centre on a PIL seeking a ban on the Zoom app for both government and private use until an appropriate legislation is framed, citing privacy and security concerns.
A bench led by Chief Justice SA Bobde issued notice to the government on the PIL filed by Harsh Chugh, who alleged that even the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) — India’s nodal cyber security agency — had warned about cyber risks involved in using Zoom and many organisations across the world had already banned it for breaching cyber security.

Besides, Zoom founder and CEO Eric S Yuan has already apologised publicly and accepted the app to be faulty in terms of providing a secure environment digitally, which is against the norms of cyber security, the plea said.
The Zoom app, which enables video conferences and online chat facilities, “practices data hoarding and cyber hoarding” which includes mass storage of personal data of its users and stores cloud recordings, instant messages and files, the petition stated, adding that “Zoom is reported to have a bug that can be abused intentionally to leak information of users to third parties.  The app has falsely claimed calls are end-to-end encrypted when they are not”.

Chugh also alleged that Zoom practises data hoarding, including mass storage of users’ personal data.
Stating that continued use of Zoom was “making the users vulnerable and prone to cyber threats,” the petitioner said that “poor privacy and security of the application have enabled the hackers to get access to the meeting, classes, and conferences being conducted online through this application. Zoom is reported to have a bug that can be abused intentionally to leak information of users to third parties”.

He also sought a direction to the Centre to carry out an exhaustive technical study into the security and privacy risks involved.

The petition pointed out that the Zoom application saw exponential growth in its users from 10 million in December 2019 to 200 million in March 2020 due to the pandemic-induced lockdown restrictions. “Zoom was capitalising off the pandemic by selling users’ information to Facebook without their consent. Zoom is sending the data it collects from the computer of its users even if they weren’t logged on to a Facebook account,” the petition said, adding that the penetration of offending software increasing with each day have pan India ramifications.

According to Chugh, there is a need for a legislation to be put in place in order to effectuate a standard regulation to safeguard the rights of citizens as has been brought to light by various leaders across the world.

“Rather than lending a hand to people in need, Zoom violates the privacy of its millions of users by misusing and exploiting their personal information, and falsely, deceptively, and misleadingly advertising fictitious security benefits of the programme,” he added.

On April 1, the ministry of home affairs, through its cyber coordination committee, had issued an advisory on the secure use of Zoom by private individuals. This advisory stated that the platform is not for use for official purposes. Chugh pointed out that various high courts across the country are still using the application, despite the MHA advisory.

“The Bombay High Court recently decided to live stream hearing on a trial basis. The bench of Justice GS Patel made the hearing of listed matters on April 9 publicly accessible. The hearing in the court of Justice Patel could be accessed by anyone and everyone via the Zoom application. Similarly, the Kerala high court has also started live-streaming of court hearings through this application,” the plea stated.

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