Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’ll know Zoom’s been having a pretty hard time. The firm has been under fire from all angles after a surge in “Zoom bombing,” privacy scandals and news that video chats are available online for anyone to see.
Not wanting to miss an opportunity to take advantage of this, Microsoft has just dealt a new blow to Zoom by publishing a blog promoting the security and privacy credentials of its rival video conferencing service, Teams.
“Now more than ever, people need to know that their virtual conversations are private and secure,” said Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, adding that “at Microsoft, privacy and security are never an afterthought.”
The blog goes on to list the security and privacy controls available for Teams video conferences, such as the ability to manage participants and prevent unwanted guests from crashing calls.
Spataro also takes an apparent swipe at Zoom’s privacy shortfalls, saying: “Our approach to privacy is grounded in our commitment to giving you transparency over the collection, use, and distribution of your data.”
It comes as Zoom is facing a class action lawsuit for sharing user data with Facebook.
Zoom is a massive threat to Microsoft
Microsoft sees Zoom as a massive threat, according to a leaked video seen by tech site The Verge. And rightly so: Zoom’s users shot up from 10 million last year to 500 million today as the coronavirus crisis left many countries in lockdown.
Zoom’s appeal spans business and consumer use–it works, and it’s functional. But Zoom’s weakness is the way people perceive its security and privacy.
Microsoft has also just launched a Zoom competitor for consumers, Meet Now, allowing people to use Skype and generate a meeting link without an account. This is the perfect opportunity for the firm to get its message out there while people look for an alternative to Zoom.
Microsoft Teams V Zoom: Which is best?
Jake Moore, cybersecurity specialist at ESET says Microsoft’s move is “clearly a knee jerk reaction” to the amount of scrutiny Zoom and other teleconferencing platforms have been receiving amid the COVID-19 user surge.
Although Moore concedes this “isn’t a bad idea,” he points out that most users favour convenience over privacy or security. “It may take a lot more to make people move across.”
Moore says the functionality of Teams “still seems clunky,” so much so that it can be “difficult for some people to even work out how to schedule a basic call.”
One reason for Zoom’s popularity is its simplicity, so a lot of people may struggle with Teams, agrees security researcher Sean Wright. “To me this is like trying to use a bus to take the family to the shops versus the family car. Both will do the job, but one will be more practical for simple tasks.”
It’s true that Zoom has suffered from multiple security and privacy issues as its user numbers surge. But as the company said in a recent blog, it’s trying to put things right with a number of new measures.
Will Microsoft’s move work?
Microsoft’s move is certainly timed pretty well in terms of gaining interest from disenchanted Zoom users. So will it work?
Basing your marketing on security and privacy isn’t as crazy as it seems. In an era of mass data collection by firms such as Google, Apple has been doing the same for some time. If it’s worked for Apple, Microsoft must think, why wouldn’t it work for us?
But there’s one difference–functionality. People are happy to use secure products, as long as they work. If Microsoft is going to beat Zoom’s feature set and with flair, it’s got a lot of work to do.
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