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Zoom finds a balance between privacy and policy

The company said it will enable end-to-end encryption for everyone on the service, and says it can do it without sacrificing its "ability to prevent and fight abuse on the platform."

Zoom in use

The challenges for Zoom now are similar to those Facebook faces as it tries to pivot to privacy: Privacy is a good thing, except when it protects bad guys.

Photo: Courtesy of Zoom

Say this for Zoom: The company's certainly quick on its feet. After creating a backlash for the umpteenth time this pandemic by saying its end-to-end encryption feature would be for paying customers only, then making it worse by saying that decision was made so Zoom could better cooperate with law enforcement, then tripling down by removing a Chinese dissident from the service at the request of the Chinese government, Zoom … changed its mind in a big way.

On day 77 of Zoom's 90-day plan to rethink everything about its security plans, the company said it will enable end-to-end encryption for everyone on the service, and released designs for its encryption on GitHub. And, CEO Eric Yuan said, Zoom can do it without sacrificing its "ability to prevent and fight abuse on the platform."

  • Yuan said that Zoom talked to civil rights groups, government organizations, child-safety advocates, encryption experts and more since its initial announcement a few weeks ago. Clearly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, those groups told Zoom that more encryption is better.
  • Starting in July, when you schedule a meeting, you'll be able to choose to have end-to-end encryption. (There'll be a new button in the interface.) But there are limitations: Encrypted calls can't include regular phone callers, for instance.
  • For business accounts, administrators will be able to toggle encryption either for a specific user or the whole organization.

The challenges for Zoom here are similar to those Facebook faces as it tries to pivot to privacy: Privacy is a good thing, except when it protects bad guys. Zoom may not have the same sort of public-moderation issues, but full encryption would make it harder to keep out Zoombombers or figure out who's creating accounts en masse.

  • Most of Zoom's changes in recent weeks have been about giving admins and users more control over who comes into a meeting and what they can do once they're in there. But the company still feels it needs ways to keep some tabs on the platform and its users.
  • In this case, Zoom users on free and basic plans will be asked to verify some information about themselves — like a phone number — in order to turn on the feature. Zoom is still trying to make sure it can weed out problematic users, so it's trading "info about your chats" for "info about our users."

Zoom's still tweaking the encryption system and soliciting feedback on GitHub. "Until things are out the door, there's really no reason to cut off feedback," said Max Krohn, Zoom's head of security engineering. I've seen a few people complain about Zoom collecting more information about users, but in general the reaction to this news seems to be that Zoom came around and did the right thing. Even if it took a few wrong turns along the way.

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Protocol | Policy

Senate infrastructure bill: Who’s winning and losing in tech?

The $1 trillion bill covers everything from cyber to electric vehicles. But who's best positioned to seize the opportunity?

The $1 trillion infrastructure bill includes $550 billion in new spending.

Photo: Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

There's a little something — and in some cases, a lotta something — for everyone in the bipartisan infrastructure bill that's currently getting hammered out in the Senate.

The $1 trillion bill includes $550 billion in new spending, of which tens of billions of dollars will go toward broadband expansion, low-income internet subsidies, electric vehicle investments, charging stations, cybersecurity and more. The outpouring of federal funding gives anyone from telecom giants to device manufacturers a lot to like.

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Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

When the COVID-19 crisis crippled societies last year, the collective worldwide race for a cure among medical researchers put a spotlight on the immense power of big data analysis and how sharing among disparate agencies can save lives.

The critical need to exchange information among hundreds of international agencies or departments can be tough to pull off, especially if it's medical, financial or cybersecurity information that is highly protected by regulatory guardrails.

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James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Protocol | Workplace

Silicon Valley has a new recruitment strategy: The four-day workweek

Everything you need to know about how tech companies are beta testing the 32-hour week.

Since the onset of COVID-19, more companies have begun to explore shortened workweeks.

Photo: Matteo Colombo/Getty Images

At software company Wildbit, most employees are logged off on Fridays. That's not going to change anytime soon.

To Natalie Nagele, the company's co-founder and CEO, a full five days of work doesn't necessarily mean the company will get more stuff done. She pointed to computer science professor Cal Newport's book, "Deep Work," which explains how a person's ability to complete meaningful work cuts off after just about four hours. That book, Nagele told Protocol, inspired the company to move to a four-day workweek back in 2017.

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Sarah Roach

Sarah Roach is a reporter and producer at Protocol (@sarahroach_) where she contributes to Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. She is a recent graduate of George Washington University, where she studied journalism and mass communication and criminal justice. She previously worked for two years as editor in chief of her school's independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet.

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The game industry comes back down to Earth after its pandemic boom

Game company earnings reports this week show a decline from last year's big profits.

The game industry is slowing down as it struggles to maintain last year's record growth.

Photo: Cyril Marcilhacy/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The video game industry is finally slowing down. After a year of unprecedented and explosive growth due to the COVID-19 pandemic, big game publishers and hardware makers are starting to see profits dip from their 2020 highs and other signs of a return to normalcy.

This week alone, Sony and Nintendo both posted substantial drops in profit compared to this time a year ago, with Sony's operating income down more than 40% and Nintendo's down 17%. Grand Theft Auto maker Take-Two Interactive saw a dip in revenue and said its forecast for the rest of the fiscal year would not match last year's growth, while EA posted a revenue bump but an operating income decline of more than 43% compared to this time a year ago. Ubisoft, which reported earnings last month, saw its sales and bookings this past quarter drop by 14% and 21%, respectively, when compared to a year ago.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Allocations wants to make it easier to invest in startups as a group

Now valued at $100 million, it's emerging from stealth to challenge Carta and Assure in the SPV market.

Kingsley Advani, CEO of Allocations, wants to make it easier to form SPVs.

Photo: Allocations

Software is eating the world, including the venture industry. Carta and Assure have made it easier than ever for people to band together on deals. AngelList's venture arm debuted new ways to create rolling funds. But the latest startup to challenge the incumbents in the space is Allocations, a Miami-based startup that's making it easy to create and close special purpose vehicles, or SPVs, in hours.

"If you look at Pinduoduo and group shopping, SPVs are group investing," said Kingsley Advani, Allocations' founder and CEO. Instead of one investor having to cough up millions, multiple people can write smaller checks in an SPV and invest as a cohort. It's a trend that's taken off in 2021 as investors compete to get into hot startups.

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Biz Carson

Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.

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