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Zoom forced to walk back AI data training plan after user outrage

The company quietly changed its Terms of Service in March to begin using consumer data to train AI.


Mikael Thalen


Posted on Aug 8, 2023

Zoom has responded to backlash over a change to its Terms of Service by stating that it promises not to use customers’ audio and video data to train artificial intelligence (AI) unless consent is granted.

The controversy began on Sunday after some began noticing that the videoconferencing app had altered its user agreement in March to state that consumer data would be utilized for “machine learning” and “artificial intelligence.”

The update quickly saw countless users vowing to boycott Zoom across social media. In response, the company added yet another change to its Terms of Service on Monday that stated “Notwithstanding the above, Zoom will not use audio, video or chat Customer Content to train our artificial intelligence models without your consent.”

The addition has been labeled by some tech experts as contradictory given the preceding language, which appears to leave the door open for such collection and usage. Zoom’s Chief Product Officer Smita Hashim also published a blog post on Monday promising users that the app would not use their data for AI training.

Hashim further noted that Zoom’s use of AI revolved primarily around its new feature known as Zoom IQ, which can, among other things, generate automated meeting summaries. If the feature is enabled, all users in a meeting must either accept having their data collected or leave the meeting altogether.

But the response has not quelled privacy concerns among the app’s users. Many have demanded that meeting attendees also be given the option to opt out of data collection instead of relying solely on the meeting administrator.

“I’m afraid unless you give users the option to opt out of having their data used in training AI, we’re going to have to boycott your product,” one user on Twitter wrote. “Unless you can verify that video content itself is not used in training. This is horrible optics.”

The controversy follows numerous other issues at Zoom that have damaged the company’s public image. Zoom also received pushback this week after backing out of its promise to let its employees work from home. Workers who live near a company office must now work from there at least twice per week.

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*First Published: Aug 8, 2023, 8:04 am CDT