Zoom CEO Says Security Must Come First After Missteps : Coronavirus Live Updates Eric Yuan says he is willing to make his video-conferencing software harder to use, if that means it will be safer. Zoom is grappling with a wave of online harassment on its platform.
NPR logo

Zoom CEO Tells NPR He Never Thought 'Seriously' About Online Harassment Until Now

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/829330707/830205930" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Zoom CEO Tells NPR He Never Thought 'Seriously' About Online Harassment Until Now

Zoom CEO Tells NPR He Never Thought 'Seriously' About Online Harassment Until Now

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/829330707/830205930" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Zoom is trying to regain users' trust. Over the last few weeks, the video conferencing service became the go-to platform for business meetings, education, even weddings and funerals. Then hate groups started to weaponize the platform, bombarding people with racist and pornographic content. The FBI warned about Zoombombing. Big school districts started to leave the platform. And now Zoom is scrambling to do damage control. We should mention that the company is a financial supporter of NPR. Zoom's founder and CEO, Eric Yuan, joins us now.

Welcome.

ERIC YUAN: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: You know, so many tech platforms have dealt with trolls, racists, neo-Nazis, pornography - I could list them all, all the big ones. Shouldn't you have anticipated this?

YUAN: I never thought about this seriously. And occasionally, we had that over the past several years. And we have a team that we work together with the local, you know, law enforcement and the FBI whenever someone reported that. But this time, just for the first week, there was too many. And it is totally unexpected.

SHAPIRO: Part of Zoom's appeal has been that it is so easy to use. You don't have to download specific software. You don't have to have passwords or jump through hoops. Does that ease of access which made it so appealing to so many also make the platform more vulnerable to these attacks?

YUAN: Yes, that's why. Normally, you know, before this crisis, this service was used by business meetings. Meeting ID is unique, really hard to guess. For now, a lot of end users are using that now. Quite often, they might share the meeting ID to their social media. Without a password, for sure, you know, others can easily hack into that.

SHAPIRO: Tell me about your relationship with law enforcement. Did you know that the FBI was going to issue a warning calling out your company by name?

YUAN: I would say this - FBI can help. This is online crime.

SHAPIRO: It is online crime, yeah.

YUAN: Yeah. We're very excited to know FBI involved. Actually, this is great.

SHAPIRO: As you know, a lot of people have said they're not going to use Zoom anymore. You've lost their trust. Entire school districts have banned the platform. Major technology firms are saying they just no longer trust Zoom. What is your message to them?

YUAN: We have lots of users. We have very large user base. You know, take New York state - the public school, for example. You know, our team's still working together with them. I think we have more users, more companies, you know, who are using Zoom now.

SHAPIRO: I have to say, I sort of expected you to say we're going to do whatever we need to to win back their trust, but it sounds like instead you're saying we're getting so many more customers all the time that we can afford to lose a few.

YUAN: No. No, that's not what I mean. I'm so sorry. One of my point is for any users who lost the trust, we do all we can to win their trust back. That is a given. But in addition to that, we also have a lot of users. We are working together with them for many, many years. They know actually, you know, our company has good intention. For those who are going to not use Zoom anymore, we double down our effort. That's why we freeze everything. Next is 90 days of privacy, no feature, right? Just focus on privacy, security.

SHAPIRO: You're saying over the next 90 days, you're going to put these new features in place that will increase privacy.

YUAN: Yeah. No features, just privacy, security. We want to win all of those users back.

SHAPIRO: So what would you tell people who think Zoom is so accessible and easy to use but might be resistant to use the kind of password protections that you're talking about? Given that you've built your brand on the low barrier to entry, do you think that barrier to entry now needs to be a little bit higher to keep people safer?

YUAN: That's good question. You are so right. And when it comes to a conflict between usability and privacy and security, privacy and security is more important. Even you take two steps, three steps, I think we should do that.

SHAPIRO: And for you, as the founder of this company, is that a huge shift in the way you conceive of this platform, that if it takes two or three steps to enter, it's OK as long as it makes it safer, even if that might drive some people away because it's inconvenient?

YUAN: If you asked me this question one year ago, I would hesitate to say yes. For now, (unintelligible) yes. I think we want to do all we can to make sure people feel safe to use our platform and even at a cost of multiple clicks. Because whenever there's a conflict, there is no perfect, you know, scenario. You've got to sacrifice something. From our perspective, welcome to transform our business to privacy and security first.

SHAPIRO: Eric Yuan is the founder and CEO of the video meeting platform Zoom.

Thank you for your time today.

YUAN: Thank you for making it, really appreciate it.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.