It Zoomed Right Into Our Lives #51

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Deepnews Digest #51

It Zoomed Right Into Our Lives

Editor: Christopher Brennan

For many of us the impact of coronavirus came suddenly, and it brought a new vocabulary of words like “the curve” or “Zoom-bombing.” This Digest focuses on Zoom, which news outlets have been digging deeper into this week, as well as other technologies that have impacted conversations around data privacy. The results, found with the Deepnews Scoring Model, are a set of articles that cover the new developments such as security flaws as well as the background (though not the popular beach or space-themed varieties) that got us here.


Editor’s Note: This newsletter was inspired in part by the way that Zoom and data privacy kept popping up in Distill newsletters, particularly Regulating Big Tech , which also comes out on Fridays and is also edited by me. As an American in Europe, for me the Distill is a good weekly look at the reaction to big Silicon Valley companies around the world on issues like taxes, cybersecurity and of course the EU’s GDPR. Hope you check it out.
Story Source
The Verge
If the coronavirus pandemic had swept across the world in 2011, everyone would have been using Skype to connect over video and voice calls. Instead, rivals like Zoom and Houseparty are having a moment of huge growth in 2020 thanks to consumers looking for Skype alternatives. In recent weeks we’ve seen people across the world sheltering at home and holding virtual yoga classes, beers with friends, and even school classes all over Zoom. It’s a unique once in a decade situation that’s highlighted Microsoft’s beleaguered Skype acquisition in a big way.

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The New York Times
After an inquiry from Times reporters, Zoom said it would disable a data-mining feature that could be used to snoop on participants during meetings without their knowledge.

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Krebs on Security
As the Coronavirus pandemic continues to force people to work from home, countless companies are now holding daily meetings using videoconferencing services from Zoom. But without the protection of a password, there’s a decent chance your next Zoom meeting could be “Zoom bombed” — attended or disrupted by someone who doesn’t belong. And according to data gathered by a new automated Zoom meeting discovery tool dubbed “zWarDial,” a crazy number of meetings at major corporations are not being protected by a password.

Editor’s Note: Several of the articles on this list talk about Zoom-bombing, where a user who isn’t wanted pops up in an ongoing meeting and causes trouble. Here Brian Krebs talks to researchers who have made a program that goes around Zoom’s attempts to block automatic scans and can hack into places it shouldn’t be. – Christopher Brennan, Editor

Deccan Herald
The shift to working from home would have happened in an organic manner, but the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the speed of change; important to think about the precautions we must take to make this on-going experiment successful

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Bloomberg
Those uneasy feelings you’re likely having right now — the disorientation, the low-lying fear that gets more intense at night, the helplessness, the tightness in your chest — there’s a medical term for that. Mental health professionals call it adjustment disorder, or symptoms that occur in people who are having trouble coping with everyday life as a result of a major disruption or loss.

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Computing
Tough times call for strong measures. During the Second World War, the British public accepted the need for ID cards to manage rationing and monitor the population as a necessary restriction on their liberty. After the war, ID cards were dropped, although some of the monitoring mechanisms and restrictions remained in place. In response to the coronavirus crisis, governments around the world have brought in sweeping and occasionally Draconian measures to control the movement of their citizens by digital means, including tracking of smartphones to enforce social distancing and quarantine. The measures taken in the UK currently enjoy the support of the public who recognise the necessity of fighting the virus, but their efficacy is in most cases unproven, and as lockdowns drag on inevitably these constraints will start to chafe.

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Motherboard (Vice)
As people work and socialize from home, video conferencing software Zoom has exploded in popularity. What the company and its privacy policy don’t make clear is that the iOS version of the Zoom app is sending some analytics data to Facebook, even if Zoom users don’t have a Facebook account, according to a Motherboard analysis of the app.

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Reuters
BERLIN – A group of European experts said on Wednesday they would soon launch technology for smartphones to help trace people who had come into contact with those infected with coronavirus, helping the health authorities act swiftly to halt its spread.

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Law.com
Lawyers at Tycko & Zavareei assert that Zoom’s sharing of user data to third parties was an “egregious breach of their trust and of social norms” and violated even Facebook’s policies.

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POLITICO
BERLIN — European researchers think they have found a way to use mobile phones to contain the spread of coronavirus — and help people avoid infection — without sacrificing the region’s high standards on privacy.

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Rappler
Radiologists and medical physicists ask for further examination of an AI-powered COVID-19 diagnostic tool

Editor’s Note: Zoom isn’t the only technology that has seen a boost amid coronavirus. Here Rappler, which offers good coverage of the Philippines, reports on a tool from Chinese tech giant Huawei and concerns for data privacy.

WSJ ($)
Western governments aiming to relax restrictions on movement are turning to unprecedented surveillance to track people infected with the new coronavirus and identify those with whom they have been in contact. Governments in China, Singapore, Israel and South Korea that are already using such data credit the practice with helping slow the spread of the virus. The U.S. and European nations, which have often been more protective of citizens’ data than those countries, are now looking at a similar approach, using apps and cellphone data.

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BBC
A controversial Israeli cyber-security company is marketing software that uses mobile phone data to monitor and predict the spread of the coronavirus.

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Reuters
Elon Musk’s rocket company SpaceX has banned its employees from using video conferencing app Zoom, citing “significant privacy and security concerns,” according to a memo seen by Reuters, days after U.S. law enforcement warned users about the security of the popular app.

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Vox
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, businesses from Ford to Facebook have offered up their services, money, and face mask stashes to try to help. Some companies that deal in your data are stepping up, too, offering their data analysis services to try to track or stop the spread of the virus.

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Mother Jones
Being cooped up at home to slow the spread of coronavirus is forcing a lot of us to grapple with new technologies. To fight isolation, friends have turned to “Netflix Party,” a browser extension that lets people sync their computers to watch movies or TV together. Offices are using video conferencing tools like Zoom and Google Hangouts to run remote meetings. Shut-ins are using the same apps to hold virtual happy hours. Mourners are using them to hold funerals. But aside from spreading new technologies, the coronavirus has brought back at least one nearly forgotten one: chain mail.

Editor’s Note: In days like this you might feel like you’re living in a dystopia written by a clairvoyant science fiction author. Yet, not all of it is as high-tech as expected. Misinformation, which we also cover through our Distill Matter of Facts, is indeed not a new practice. Coronavirus has spread the resurgence of news from “friends of friends”, in chain mails like those of the late 1990s. – Youssr Youssef, Data Scientist

Asian Age
There has been a lot going on at Zoom. The video conference app has been a major beneficiary from the lockdowns imposed due to the coronavirus, as humanity participates in its largest-ever work from home experiment. As a result, Zoom’s shares have doubled in value in less than six months. All is not well though, the company has been fraught with privacy issues recently. For instance, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) pointed out that hosts of Zoom meetings can see if the participants are paying attention based on whether or not the Zoom window is active on their screens.

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The Guardian
Like any real-life get-together, you can never be sure who you will bump into in the kitchen – and in much the same way people are now discovering government ministers, famous musicians, and even members of the royal family when using the Houseparty app.

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Kim Komando
You’re stuck at home trying to remember what life was like before the coronavirus became a global pandemic. You’d give anything just to have a friendly conversation with a buddy over dinner at your favorite restaurant again. And then it happens. The phone finally rings and you get excited to speak with someone. Shockingly, it’s a scammer trying to sell you a fake COVID-19 vaccine. Yes, that’s really happening

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Financial Times ($)
Three days after the Chinese government locked down Hubei, the province at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, a local government official more than 1,000km away received data from telecoms carriers alerting her to a list of people who had left Hubei and entered her town.

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San Francisco Chronicle
My parents frequently complained about having to listen to their friends discuss the joys of grandparenthood. For decades, the two of them would politely smile and inwardly roll their eyes while coworkers, lunch buddies and fellow churchgoers went on (and apparently on) about grandchildren. “If I have to hear about another little grand-genius one more time, I’m going to scream,” my mother would vent.

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ZDNet
As you continue with your life under lockdown and as you shift your working pattern to working from home instead of the office, you may feel you are more distracted than when you are in the workplace. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly changed the way we think about the collaboration apps we use every day.

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Lexology
As companies are increasingly asking employees to work from home to decrease the spread of the coronavirus (covid-19), Jamal Ahmed, global privacy expert and in-house data protection lead, discusses why businesses should focus on promoting employee cyber-awareness and building fail-safes to defend against opportunistic hackers looking to profit from the covid-19 panic.

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AFP
SAN FRANCISCO: Zoom, which garnered fame by facilitating video calls during the coronavirus lockdown around the world, vowed on Thursday that it will ensure privacy and safety controls after a series of complaints about the application surfaced.

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TechCrunch
A European coalition of techies and scientists drawn from at least eight countries, and led by Germany’s Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute for telecoms (HHI), is working on contacts-tracing proximity technology for COVID-19 that’s designed to comply with the region’s strict privacy rules — officially unveiling the effort today.

Editor’s Note: Israel, South Korea, and Singapore have already decided to track their people, at different levels, through their phones. With the epidemic outbreak now centered mostly in Europe, will the region manage to halt the spread of the virus without sacrificing its high standards on privacy? – Youssr Youssef, Data Scientist

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