New York City’s education department has banned schools from using the videoconference platform Zoom, following reports nationwide of educators’ sessions being hacked and disrupted.
The city’s directive, first reported by Chalkbeat, urges schools and their employees to transition to Microsoft Teams as quickly as possible.
Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom, told CNN on Sunday that the company is still in touch with New York City schools and is working on addressing privacy and security concerns. “We made some missteps,” he said.
The district’s decision is likely to create more headaches for school employees who have been hurrying to keep students learning remotely during the coronavirus pandemic. But it may come as a relief to privacy advocates who have been sounding the alarm about Zoom since before the outbreak hit.
“What [New York City’s schools chancellor] should do now is negotiate a contract with Zoom tthat complies with state law and protects student privacy, and train teachers on how to use this app and other apps in a more responsible manner,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of the nonprofit Class Size Matters and a student privacy expert.
Details of what happens behind the scenes with data from the videoconferencing platform continue to emerge. The Washington Post reported on Friday that hundreds of archived public Zoom meetings are posted publicly online. The New York Times found evidence that some users were able to access identifying LinkedIn profile details about other users without their knowledge or consent. More than two dozen state attorneys general have inquired in recent days about issues with Zoom.
Schools across the country are evaluating their relationship with Zoom, and several other districts, including Clark County in Nevada, have asked employees not to use Zoom. Other districts, like Conejo Unified in California, are sharing precautionary steps with teachers and staff.
Virtual school board and classroom meetings in numerous states have been interrupted by “Zoombombers"—hackers, including some teenagers, who post pornographic, racist, offensive or comedic imagery in an attempt to sow chaos and shut chat rooms down.
Advocates have also raised questions about the extent to which Zoom collects and shares data, a particularly sensitive issue for students using the platform for the first time to communicate with teachers.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.