NYC Department of Education is banning Zoom over privacy concerns for students and teachers


The New York City Department of Education is banning Zoom just weeks after students and teachers shifted to the video-conferencing platform. 

Department of Education Chancellor Richard Carranza announced on April 4 that security and privacy issues were behind the department's decision to ban the platform "as soon as possible," according to a memo reported by Chalkbeat.

Schools are instead being directed to use Microsoft Teams, which the department has already started training teachers and staff to use, according to Chalkbeat

The platform is compliant with student privacy laws, including FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

As schools have moved to remote classrooms in response to the novel coronavirus outbreaks in recent weeks, scores of concerns have been raised about privacy and security issues users found with the platform, prompting warnings from the FBI and demands for increased user privacy from the New York Attorney General.

The easy-access virtual meetings are joined via a unique link, which has made the platform attractive for large groups like classes but leaves attendees vulnerable to random — and sometimes offensive — intrusions. 

"Zoombombing" incidents have sparked concerns as hackers or trolls appear in random Zoom calls, sometimes sharing spam or obscene material. Business Insider's Paayal Zaveri previously reported that Zoombombing has affected online classes, corporate gatherings, and even virtual Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

The company responded to concerns by rolling out extra measures to secure the meeting links. Starting April 5, Zoom will a require password to join a meeting with the meeting ID instead of through the invite link.

Virtual waiting rooms will also appear by default, allowing the meeting host to manually add attendees to the meeting.

One Brooklyn principal told Chalkbeat that the Microsoft app was too inefficient for teachers to embrace the way they did Zoom. 

"If the DOE follows through with this decision, I believe that the impact will be no more live teaching for many teachers," the principal told the outlet. "I am not sure that the DOE and the mayor fully understand the impact of decisions like this."

Considering the critics condemning the ban and Zoom's targeted improvements aimed to protect users, the ban could perhaps be reconsidered in the coming weeks of remote schooling. 

"The DOE also continues to review and monitor developments with Zoom," the department wrote in a memo reported by Chalkbeat, "which may be approved for use at a later date."