Microsoft Dunks On Zoom Touting Strict Security And Privacy Regimen In Microsoft Teams

Microsoft Teams
In some ways, these are unprecedented times, resulting in a dramatic rise in the use of video conferencing software. Many people working from (or stuck at) home have turned to Zoom, and the sudden influx exposed some security and privacy issues. In the wake of it all, Microsoft is reminding users of its Teams software, while emphasizing its "commitment to privacy and security."

Jared Spataro, corporate vice president for Microsoft 365, wrote a blog post on the subject, assuring users that "privacy and security are never an afterthought" at Microsoft. Some may view that as a subtle (or maybe not-so-subtle) dig at Zoom. I'm not entirely sure if that is how it was meant to come across, but it's easy to see why some may think that—Spataro higlights several features of Microsoft Teams, which happen to be ones that have come under fire at Zoom.

"We offer a variety of privacy and security controls to allow you to manage who participates in your meetings and who has access to meeting information," Spataro explains. "For example, you decide who from outside your organization can join your meetings directly, and who should wait in the lobby for someone to let them in. You can also remove participants during a meeting, designate 'presenters' and 'attendees', and control which meeting participants can present content."

"And with guest access, you can add people from outside your organization but still retain control over your data. Moderation allows you to control who is and isn’t allowed to post and share content. And advanced artificial intelligence (AI) monitors chats to help prevent negative behaviors like bullying and harassment," Spataro adds.

In contrast, some school districts have banned the use of Zoom because of a practice called Zoombombing. This is when someone hacks into a Zoom session, often to post inappropriate images and/or to make racist remarks. In fact, the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) saw fit to call out the practice, noting that Zoombombing is a crime that could be come with fines and imprisonment.

On the privacy side of the equation, Spataro highlighted several features of note...
  • We never use your Teams data to serve you ads.
  • We do not track participant attention or multi-tasking in Teams meetings.
  • Your data is deleted after the termination or expiration of your subscription.
  • We take strong measures to ensure access to your data is restricted and carefully define requirements for responding to government requests for data.
  • You can access your own customer data at any time and for any reason.
  • We offer regular transparency reports on the Transparency Hub, detailing how we have responded to third-party requests for data.
It is an interesting situation for sure. Zoom founder and CEO Eric Yuan admitted his startup "moved too fast" in light of the COVID-19 outbreak and "had some missteps," with regards to security and privacy. According to Yuan, part of the reason is because Zoom was initially designed primarily for enterprise environments, rather than consumers without the benefit of an IT department.

"For the past several weeks, supporting this influx of users has been a tremendous undertaking and our sole focus. We have strived to provide you with uninterrupted service and the same user-friendly experience that has made Zoom the video-conferencing platform of choice for enterprises around the world, while also ensuring platform safety, privacy, and security. However, we recognize that we have fallen short of the community’s—and our own—privacy and security expectations. For that, I am deeply sorry," Yuan stated in a blog post.

In any event, Microsoft Teams is an alternative option, if you're looking for something to use other than Zoom. We also recently highlighted several other top alternatives to Zoom, so be sure to check that out.