Zoom’s legal perils mount as Democrats call for FTC probe – POLITICO

A spokesperson for Bennet said recent revelations about the company’s practices have “raised troubling questions about whether the company has taken adequate steps to protect the millions of Americans who use the platform every day to work, learn and connect remotely.”

“Given these mounting concerns, Senator Bennet believes the Federal Trade Commission should immediately investigate whether the company’s policies have put user privacy and security needlessly at risk,” spokesperson Courtney Gidner said.

Klobuchar also “supports an FTC investigation into Zoom’s privacy and security issues and is concerned about how Zoom’s business practices appear to have put American’s data and privacy at risk,” a spokesperson told POLITICO.

A Zoom spokesperson responded to questions by saying in a statement: “We appreciate the outreach we have received on these issues from various elected officials and look forward to engaging with them.”

Zoom’s chief legal officer, Aparna Bawa, told POLITICO in an interview last week that the company plans to comply with information requests from U.S. officials.

Zoom’s prominence in Americans’ daily life has soared as millions heed calls from U.S. officials to self-isolate amid the coronavirus pandemic. But its soaring usage has also drawn attention to reported issues such as data leaks, the exposure of private videos and a new form of online harassment known as “Zoom bombing,” in which intruders bombard conference participants with racist, pornographic or other offensive content.

Those concerns have prompted investigations by state attorneys general, including those in Connecticut and Florida, as POLITICO first reported, as well as a wave of condemnation from officials on Capitol Hill.

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Zoom has also faced resistance in some school systems, many of which had started to rely on the service as they shift their lessons online. In New York City, the city Department of Education has told schools to shift away from the platform.

And while federal agencies remain authorized to use a government-specific version of Zoom for some purposes, two federal overseers said in a statement Tuesday that they need to be careful not to use the version that ordinary people or businesses would rely on. “We advise federal government users to not initiate video conferences using Zoom’s free/commercial offering, but instead to use Zoom for Government,” said the two bodies, the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program and DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Zoom has received at least eight federal purchase orders in the past three years, according to a POLITICO search of a government procurement website. Those include a $141,981 purchase order approved this month by the National Institutes of Health, for uses including video conferencing and webinars, and a $22,630 order in November from the State Department.

Zoom CEO Eric Yuan last week pledged in a blog post that the company will focus its resources over the next three months on addressing those issues.

But the remarks have not abated scrutiny on Capitol Hill and beyond.

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) urged Simons in a letter last week to launch an investigation into Zoom. On Monday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) issued a statement saying that “Zoom’s pattern of security failures and privacy infringements should have drawn the FTC’s attention and scrutiny long ago.”

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Pallone and Schakowsky also support a probe of Zoom, according to spokespeople.

Rep. Jerry McNerney (D-Calif.), a top D.C. tech policy wonk who led a letter to Zoom last week raising online privacy concerns, told POLITICO in a statement Tuesday that “I would hope the FTC is already engaging with the company.”

Though the FTC spokesperson said the agency cannot comment on whether it is investigating a particular comment, the person added, “we share concerns about the need to ensure the privacy and security of videoconferencing systems in light of their central importance during this crisis.”

Tim Starks contributed to this report.


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