Coronavirus: Schools Ditch Zoom Amid Security Concerns : Coronavirus Live Updates School leaders in New York City, Washington, D.C., and Las Vegas are abandoning the videoconferencing service after reports of meetings being disrupted by intruders.
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Schools Ditch Zoom Amid Concerns Over Online Learning Security

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Schools Ditch Zoom Amid Concerns Over Online Learning Security

Schools Ditch Zoom Amid Concerns Over Online Learning Security

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So many children around the country are now using computers to connect to their classrooms, but that just got a little more complicated. Large school districts, including New York City, Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., have announced that they are dropping the use of the Zoom video conferencing service. Anya Kamenetz of the NPR education team has been following this and joins us. And just to mention here before we start the conversation, Zoom is a sponsor of NPR. And, Anya, can you just start by explaining this decision by school districts?

ANYA KAMENETZ, BYLINE: Sure. So in just the last few weeks as all these schools rushed to go online, Zoom became a really popular option for classroom meetings because, you know, people found it really easy to use. You can set up the video conferences so that anyone can get in without downloading software or using a password. But, of course, that ease of use also can be a security problem. The FBI issued a warning last week that school Zoom meetings were being disrupted with racist and pornographic harassment. There are reports online of organized, quote, "Zoom-bombing" campaigns, some of them specifically targeting little children.

GREENE: Oh, wow. What is the company saying about these concerns?

KAMENETZ: So first, it's worth noting that Zoom was not designed from the ground up for use in schools, unlike some other platforms. Zoom did change its default security settings for all its education clients. In a statement to NPR, they said they're continuing to reach out to schools and districts to make sure they understand how to use the platform safely. And the CEO, Eric Yuan, told CNN that he's working with New York City schools to try to address these security concerns.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC YUAN: Make sure Zoom-bombing will not happen again. We are still in the process of working together with them.

GREENE: OK. So the company says they're working to fix this, but for the moment, I mean, teachers - I just think about it - have become so dependent on this kind of technology with students at home. They've had to adjust to this so quickly. Are there other options for schools, for families and parents?

KAMENETZ: Well, there are other options. But, you know, there's some really strong feelings here, David, because, of course, the privacy and harassment concerns are very real. On the other hand, you know, parents and teachers just barely settled into distance learning, and now they're being asked to learn a whole new platform in just a couple of days. I have to say where I live, in New York City, where I have a daughter in public school, especially people are upset because they also just learned that spring break's entirely canceled. So teachers and families have no extra time to get up to speed. And then, you know, if you want to zoom out a little bit - no pun intended...

GREENE: Right.

KAMENETZ: ...There are some people who feel like this whole conversation is actually pretty misguided because we have so many students out there who still are not able to connect to distance learning. They don't have the equipment. They don't have the connectivity or maybe even an adult at home to help them. So then rather than have this conversation about the right software platform, these advocates say maybe we should be focusing on getting students supplies that they need and maybe creating lessons that can reach all of the students out there, including those who may just have, like, nothing more than a parent's smartphone to borrow.

GREENE: What a moment. And so many decisions to make for so many parents, including you.

KAMENETZ: Yes, absolutely.

GREENE: NPR's Anya Kamenetz, thanks so much. We appreciate it.

KAMENETZ: Thank you.

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