Security, Ease-of-Use, and Zoom

Brian X. Chen, New York Times:

If there is something déjà vu about all of this, you aren’t wrong. That’s because we find ourselves dealing with the same situation over and over again, focusing on the convenience of easy-to-use tech products over issues like data security and privacy.


The lesson is one we need to learn and relearn. When a company fails to protect our privacy, we shouldn’t just continue to use its product — and tell the people we care about to use it — just because it works well and is simple to use. Once we lose our privacy, we rarely get it back again.

Chen is absolutely right in arguing that we need to be more discerning. Upon recognizing shoddy privacy and security practices, we should stop promoting the flawed app or service until it is fixed, as we cannot undo the flaws that result.

However, setting this up as a contrast between ease-of-use and security is bananas:

If you are concerned about privacy, try an alternative. There are video chatting tools from companies with better reputations, like Google’s Hangouts, Cisco’s Webex and FaceTime for Apple devices. These products may not be as simple to use as Zoom, but they work and you can worry less.

Webex might be harder to use than Zoom — I’m not sure, as I haven’t tried it — but since when is FaceTime considered anything but simple? Same with Hangouts, for that matter.

The lesson we should be drawing from this Zoom debacle is that privacy and security should not be tacked on later, but are foundational elements of any product or service. You can design something to be secure and user-friendly, but it’s easier to start with that vision than treating either as something to do whenever there’s some free time.