Trustworthiness of Zoom on MacOS
July 30, 2020 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Given Zoom’s multiple previous instances of bad behavior on MacOS, what's the current thinking on Zoom’s trustworthiness? I’ve been asked to participate in a meeting and am wondering if I should go to the trouble of creating a temporary Ubuntu virtual machine just for this purpose. To be clear, I’m not concerned about security for the meeting itself, I’m worried about installing a dodgy piece of software on my computer. The Zoom web portal appears to have limitations so I think I need to use the app. FaceTime isn't an option this time.
posted by theory to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I have a regular Zoom conf that I attend using the web client on a Mac. I think it's missing a few things: gallery view of everybody and backgrounds are two I'm aware of, but the basic functionality is OK (including audio and even transmitting video). If you need gallery or (maybe) to be able to share your screen, I don't know whether the web client is capable.
posted by spacewrench at 3:18 PM on July 30


I and all of my colleagues use the Zoom client on Macs all day long and have not had problems. I believe they fixed the installer sketchiness quite a while ago.
posted by sriracha at 3:46 PM on July 30 [4 favorites]


You absolutely should be concerned.

They may have fixed what they did before, but there were caught doing sketchy-as-hell things TWICE after doing all sorts of mea culpas when caught the first time.

To me, this proves that Zoom is not to be trusted. It's absolutely a "fool me once" kind of thing. They are not sorry they did bad things. They are sorry they got caught.

I would not install their software on any machine that does not have VERY restrictive sandboxing. For example: I have it on my iPad, but not on any of my laptops. If you have to have it on a laptop, yeah, I would *absolutely* use a VM.

(Yes, I've had people say to me "but $BigCompanyX is using it!", which only says to me that (a) Zoom has salesmen and (b) $BigCompanyX's IT braintrust is gullible.)
posted by uberchet at 4:11 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


The issue, as I recall, was that the Zoom installer used a trick that some malware also exploited to install. Does that mean it’s any more sneaky and invasive than any other piece of software you chose to install? I’m having a hard time buying into that. It’s not like the we’re using some loophole to record you when you weren’t aware of it.

I’m fine with using it on a machine that I use for all my day to day work.
posted by advicepig at 4:32 PM on July 30


I think it's missing a few things: gallery view of everybody and backgrounds are two I'm aware of...

The Mac version of Zoom I use has both of those features. You need a recent vintage Mac for backgrounds to work, though.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:00 PM on July 30


You could set up a new user account on your mac that has no admin privileges and install Zoom on that account choosing the installer option to install for only that user (not all users). That way Zoom has no access to your Library or other System locations. It would probably run more smoothly than on a VM.
posted by FungusCassetteBicker at 7:01 PM on July 30 [3 favorites]


Might as well try the VM, although I’d give it a 50% chance of webcam or audio not working, so plan ahead.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:57 PM on July 30


I'm also of a mind that installing closed-source applications that have access to the camera, microphone and network (regardless of their reputation) is not the a brilliant idea.

Old Android phones are cheap and ubiquitous. I keep one old SIMless phone around to run apps like Zoom. I have a minimum of personal data on the phone (it's on LineageOS with no Gapps) and it is powered off and in a drawer except for when I have to do a friggin Zoom meeting or similar.

Not perfect, but it works. A VM is a great idea too if the hardware sorts out.
posted by quarterframer at 10:30 AM on July 31


I think it's missing a few things: gallery view of everybody and backgrounds are two I'm aware of...

The Mac version of Zoom I use has both of those features. You need a recent vintage Mac for backgrounds to work, though.


spacewrench was talking about the “web client” not having those features, not the Mac client (which does have them).

fwiw I was wary of installing the Zoom client earlier in the year, but after they fixed a few things and seemed to show some willingness to make it better, I relented because it was just easier.
posted by fabius at 11:42 AM on July 31


I guess how concerned to be about this depends what else you do with that computer - the Zoom client works fine on linux, but dunno how it deals with a VM environment; based on previous experiments my guess would be poorly.

Personally, I just don't use my work machine for anything but work, and don't worry about it. If Zoom wants to spy on my presumably dull discussions of library budget minutiae and academic instruction, they've gotta get in line behind Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Apple, and motherfucking Symantec, none of whom are particularly trustworthy. (Not to mention Slack and Github and Basecamp and Trello and Atlassian and BTW we're all fucked, just not necessarily because of Zoom).
posted by aspersioncast at 6:07 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]


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