Staff Reporters
Aug 10, 2023

Zoom updates its terms after AI training backlash, orders its staff back to office

The popular video-calling app has stated that the company does not use audio, video, or text discussions from the app to train its artificial intelligence models.

Zoom updates its terms after AI training backlash, orders its staff back to office

Users of the popular video-calling app voiced their concerns on social media earlier this week following a Stack Diary article which claimed that a clause added to Zoom’s terms of service back in March 2023 allowed the company to use customer data to train AI models “with no opt out”.

The Stack Diary report specifically pointed to Zoom's terms of service, notably sections 10.2 and 10.4, which cover how Zoom can handle user data.

  • 10.2 says that customers “consent to Zoom’s access, use, collection, creation, modification, distribution, processing, sharing, maintenance, and storage of Service Generated Data” for “any purpose,” including “machine learning or artificial intelligence (including for the purposes of training and tuning of algorithms and models).”
  • 10.4 says that customers “agree to grant and hereby grant Zoom a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license” to use their data for things like “product and service development,” machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

Users expressed their worries on social media, which swiftly gained traction, as they were concerned that these terms would allow the video-calling service to perform AI training.

However, in a blog post published on Monday, Zoom's chief product officer Smita Hashim stated that the company does not use audio, video, or text discussions from the app to train its artificial intelligence models.

Following the backlash, Zoom has added the following statement to their terms of service after section 10.4: “Notwithstanding the above, Zoom will not use audio, video or chat Customer Content to train our artificial intelligence models without your consent.”

Like many other businesses, Zoom has recently promoted new AI-powered tools, such as a tool to help employees catch up on missed meetings and one that aids in message composition in its Team Chat app, which is similar to Slack.

According to Hashim's blog post from Monday, account owners and administrators can decide whether to enable the features, which are still in the trial phase. If they do, Hashim writes, those who do so will "be presented with a transparent consent process for training our AI models using your customer content."

Zoom orders employees to come back to the office

Zoom—the company that cashed in on work from home and even made it possible—is now added to the list of companies that is ordering its staff back to the office. 

According to a Business Insider article, the organisation, which became well-known during Covid lockdowns due to the popularity of its video-conferencing tools, has told staff to travel at least two days per week.

It's part of Zoom's “structured hybrid approach” affecting its 8,000 employees at 12 offices worldwide and will apply to those living a “commutable distance” – within 50 miles of the office.

A spokesperson said: “We believe that a structured hybrid approach—meaning a set number of days employees that live near an office need to be on-site—is most effective for Zoom. As a company, we are in a better position to use our own technologies, continue to innovate, and support our global customers.

“We’ll continue to leverage the entire Zoom platform to keep our employees and dispersed teams connected and working efficiently.”

Photo: Getty Images

As pandemic restrictions have ended, many companies have encouraged a gradual return to the office. However, due to its standing as a leader in remote work, Zoom refrained from implementing any explicit guidelines until now.

Zoom's share price has plummeted in recent times. From reaching a high of US$559 amid Covid lockdowns in October 2020, it has since dropped to US$68 as competitors grew and workers have gradually returned to their offices.

When the pandemic's intensity began to decline in February this year, Zoom made the announcement that it would be laying off roughly 1,300 employees.

The company's CEO, Eric Yuan, announced the layoffs and said he would forfeit his bonus and take a 98% pay cut. The cost to the corporation of the layoffs will range from US$50 million to US$68 million.

Furthermore, a recent survey by CBRE found that employees in Asia Pacific are leading the way in the return to the office, with office use rates in the region reaching 65%, compared to 50% in the U.S. and Europe. The survey found that nearly half (48%) of companies are prioritising efforts to bring their employees back into the office amid economic uncertainty, with 44% of companies in Asia Pacific planning to increase their office portfolios over the next three years.

Campaign Asia

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