Church sues Zoom for Bible class hijack

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We were deeply upset to hear about this incident – Zoom officials.

A church in California, USA has filed a class action complaint against Zoom Video Communications for failing to protect their Bible study from being “zoom-bombed” with pornography.

A “known offender” hijacked the video conference by disabling other accounts and then posted disturbing pornographic videos during a May 6 Bible study.

Saint Paulus Lutheran Church of San Francisco filed the suit against Zoom on Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

Heddi Cundle, a church administrator, and Saint Paulus Lutheran Church argue in the complaint that Zoom failed to secure the conference and gave their personal information to third parties.

“Zoom uses data-mining tools to collect users’ personal information and shares it with third parties without users’ consent. Zoom allows these third parties to use such personal information to target users with advertisements,” states the complaint. “Zoom also fails to implement proper security measures to protect users’ privacy and secure their videoconferences. As a result, ‘Zoombombing’ by uninvited participants has become frequent.”

The complaint argues that Zoom has violated, among other things, the California Consumer Privacy Act, the Consumer Legal Remedies Act, and the Unfair Competition Law.

“At this turbulent time of a pandemic, the importance of the sanctity of Saint Paulus cannot be overstated,” added the suit. “But Zoom – a multibillion-dollar tech giant experiencing exponential growth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic – violated this sanctity.”

In an emailed response to The Christian Post about the complaint, a representative from Zoom said: 

“We were deeply upset to hear about this incident, and our hearts go out to those impacted by this horrific event. Words cannot express how strongly we condemn such behavior. On the same day we learned of this incident, we identified the offender, took action to block their access to the platform and reported them to relevant authorities. We encourage users to report any incidents of this kind either to Zoom so we can take appropriate action or directly to law enforcement authorities. We also encourage all meeting hosts to take advantage of Zoom’s recently updated security features and follow other best practices, including making sure not to broadly share meeting IDs and passwords online, as appeared to be the case here.”

Large numbers of churches have started using Zoom for worship and Bible studies in response to having to cancel all in-person gatherings over coronavirus concerns.

As a result of the increase in groups using Zoom, there has been an uptick in the practice of zoom-bombing, in which a person or group of people hijack an online meeting and post offensive material.

For example, Tabernacle Congregational Church of Salem, Massachusetts, was the subject of a zoom-bombing on April 19 during a live-streamed worship service.

A group of people entered the service and posted footage of a Ku Klux Klan meeting with cross burning, and also made several racist remarks over the audio system.

Tabernacle Pastor Joe Amico told The Christian Post in an interview last month that they immediately alerted police. The church has since made adjustments to their online service.

“We have removed links for our services from social media and only give the links to our email list. We feel badly because we had been having visitors join our worship. Now folks have to contact us for the link and be vetted by how they know us,” he said at the time.

Zoom announced Wednesday that it has made improvements to its security, which includes acquiring the company Keybase to improve encryption for paid accounts.

“With a recent influx of first-time users, we are focusing on providing security settings that are easy to use for both first-time users and existing enterprise customers to give everyone an experience that is both frictionless and highly secure,” the company said.

“In addition to working on our end-to-end encryption plans, we will focus on enhancements to the Waiting Room feature, passwords, and more ways to leverage these two features together. We’re also exploring additional screen share controls for meeting hosts.”