Supreme Court seeks govt’s reply on plea to ban Zoom video calling app
The petitioner, Harsh Chugh, who is a part-time tutor, said the use of Zoom should be banned for both official and personal purposes until a law addressing data security issues is put in place.Updated: May 23, 2020 04:07 IST
The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday sought the response of the central government and Zoom Video Communications on a plea seeking a ban on the use of the Zoom videoconferencing software, citing privacy and security concerns.
The petitioner, Harsh Chugh, who is a part-time tutor, said the use of Zoom should be banned for both official and personal purposes until a law addressing data security issues is put in place.
“Issue notice returnable in four weeks”, the bench headed by Chief Justice of India SA Bobde said.
In April, the home ministry issued an advisory stating that the Zoom app, which government officials have been barred from using, was “not safe” for use by private individuals.The government’s missive came after the national cybersecurity agency – Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-in) – flagged the cyber vulnerability of the popular app, being used by tens of thousands of professionals working from home due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Officials pointed out at the time that the NIC (National Informatics Centre) platform was being used for most government video conferences.Government officials have been asked not to use any third party app and services for meetings. The CyCord portal was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2018 for sharing all cyber-related matters among law enforcement agencies, government organisations and other stakeholders.
The Zoom app, which is owned by the US-based Zoom Video Communications, enables video conferences and online chat facilities. The use of the platform is free for video conferences with up to 100 participants within a 40-minute time limit. For longer or larger conferences with more features, paid subscriptions are available.
Chugh told the apex court that the sudden boom in the use of Zoom application because of the lockdown restrictions, which were imposed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak, has severely compromised security in cyberspace by leaking the personal data of its users.
“Poor privacy and security of the application have enabled the hackers to get access to the meeting, classes, and conferences being conducted online through this application. Zoom is reported to have a bug that can be abused intentionally to leak information of users to third parties,” the plea said.
The petition pointed out that the Zoom application saw exponential growth in its users from 10 million in December 2019 to 200 million in March 2020 due to the pandemic-induced lockdown restrictions.
The petitioner alleged that the application has made false claims that its calls are end-to-end encrypted.
Chugh also claimed that Zoom practices data hoarding, including mass storage users’ personal data.
The petitioner pointed out that various high courts across the country are still using the application, despite the MHA advisory.
“The Bombay high court recently decided to live stream hearing on a trial basis. The bench of Justice GS Patel made the hearing of listed matters on April 9 publicly accessible. The hearing in the court of Justice Patel could be accessed by anyone and everyone via the Zoom application. Similarly, the Kerala High Court has also started live-streaming of court hearings through this application”, the plea stated.