I’m not going to start this writing with the words ‘amid Covid-19.’ (I just did) We’ve had enough of that. However, these times have seen a great slowdown for most businesses. It is the exact opposite for Zoom. Since everyone is staying home, it has become the default app for most to stay connected.
Before the coronavirus, zoom had about 10 million active users. This number skyrocketed to over 200 million within one month, as reported by Techcruch. Clearly this was a shock which also witnessed a huge spike in their stock price. Growth is always exciting but in this case, I’m not sure if they were as ready.
It didn’t take time for this kind of growth to start attracting close scrutiny. Someone identified a security glitch that sent information from the app to Facebook, even if the user didn’t have a Facebook account. Zoom quickly apologized for that but that wasn’t before a lawsuit was filed. Facebook is the last company you want to be associated with when it comes to privacy especially after the Cambridge analytics scandal. The scandal was so bad that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg started a whole convention by saying “The Future Is Private,” a statement he himself laughed at just after saying it. Wait, but today we are talking about Zoom. And just as Elon Musk asked everyone to ‘ Delete Facebook,’ Tesla was one of the first to order its employees to stop using Zoom. The New York City’s department of education asked teachers to stop using it for distance learning, siting privacy concerns as well. The Taiwan government banned video calls from it. The Canadian government said the security aspects had not yet been assessed by the Canadian Center for Cyber Security hence approved for government communications, as reported by CBC. The most Canadian way to say its also banned.
In fact it turned out there was also evidence suggesting they had been routing some video calls via China, which some US authorities saw as a security vulnerability. So a few other organization ordered to stop using it. While these numbers may not be as much to cut back numbers from the 200 million to anything close to the usual 10 million prior, they definitely had their impact on zoom’s share price, whose value begun to drop. Again inviting another lawsuit , this time from one of the shareholders.
Again not a first for a communications app. Slack suffered the same and I was a victim here. I bought a few shares at $35 when they listed as WORK on Wall Street and started plummeting till I sold them several months later for $23. A public lawsuit was filled accusing slack for not mentioning some important information on how they run before going public. An invitation was sent to join in the public lawsuit. I couldn’t join because the threshold was way above my little losses , which by the way were not little at all. While I’m still bitter, I still believe in the company itself and still use Slack everyday. I blame Microsoft teams. Similarly, a lawsuit was filed against zoom for security detail not being too accurate. Upon admission by the company itself, their stock price fell.
In all this, we begin to question how it’s been operating before the Coronavirus pandemic. Clearly a lot needed to the ironed out. I guess it never was as visible or important enough to warrant action at that time. This is teaching us the important lesson of always building right and setting right foundations even before you are big. It is clear opportunity might knock at any time, but the question is when it knocks are you ready? Will your operations be clean enough to be able to scale high and fast and smooth. As more scrutiny comes, will you have the right reasons or good justification for your conduct as a business?
Zoom is trying hard to get out of this mess. Facebook chief security officer is reportedly joining zoom as an advisor. No one better to do this at this time. But will it be enough to curb the damage and carry the company forward? I don’t know. But probably at a personal note I probably won’t immediately stop using zoom. I still find its screen sharing smoother than google hangouts and don’t want to be using other smaller startups solutions at this time. I’ll probably not give it much permission though. For example, just my camera and mic, and not my whole folder structure. I still like its backgrounds feature, although I hear Microsoft teams will be rolling out the same soon.(if it hasn’t already)
I mean on a personal level, or as a small business, the benefits seem to outweigh the risks. But lets see how zoom handles all of this. My personal takeaway, always build structures and systems right and with growth in mind. I, for the life of me am still trying to understand how they routed some videos through servers in China “by mistake” or sent data to Facebook through their iOS app…