New York City schools are once again allowed to use Zoom for online learning, the videoconferencing company and NYC Department of Education both said on Wednesday. The school district banned the use of Zoom for online education on April 4 over privacy and security concerns involved in using the app.
Zoom agreed to make some changes to address the city's concerns about privacy and security for students and teachers using the tool, education department officials told Chalkbeat.
According to a letter from NYC Department of Education Chancellor Richard A. Carranza to families, schools and students will now have access to a central NYC Department of Education Zoom account with specific data encryption and storage settings that the district requested Zoom implement for all its users.
"Our new agreement with Zoom will give your children another way to connect with their schools, teachers and school staff. We are excited to be able to have another safe and secure option for school communities to use during this unprecedented time," Carranza said in the letter.
There are also new settings to make sure only NYC Department of Education-approved participants and guests can join virtual classrooms, as well as additional controls over each meeting for hosts. Those settings seem designed to discourage "Zoombombing," where pranksters and trolls crash Zoom meetings and display pornography or other indecent material to other participants.
Zoom CEO Eric Yuan told Business Insider in April that he was working with the New York City school district to create a comprehensive, district-wide plan to use Zoom that will make sure there are overarching security settings baked into every teacher and student's account.
"We are proud that the New York City Department of Education has made Zoom available as an approved home-based learning platform to educators and staff across the city for secure and frictionless remote education to the city's over 1.1 million students," Yuan said in a statement provided to Business Insider on Wednesday. "We look forward to continued partnership with the DOE and service to the educators and students in New York."
Why NYC banned Zoom in the first place
New York City schools started remote learning on March 23, with many teachers turning to Zoom because it was simple to set up and start using. Zoom lifted the 40 minute time limit for K-12 schools in countries affected by the pandemic beginning in early March.
However, Zoombombing concerns led the New York City Department of Education to ban Zoom entirely in early April. These concerns prompted warnings from the FBI and demands for increased user privacy from the New York Attorney General.
After Zoom was banned, the department directed teachers to use alternative tools like Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom. However, not all were happy about this move: It disrupted the learning process, as teachers had to figure out a brand-new tool while already under the pressures of shifting to remote education.
Schools can continue using Google Classroom or Microsoft Teams if they prefer. Some teachers posted on Twitter to say they were happy to be able to use Zoom again.
—P.S. 304 The Early Childhood Lab School (@PS304X) May 6, 2020
—Miguel Negron (@AP_Negron) May 6, 2020
Zoom has implemented several changes in the last month to improve the privacy and security of its tool. This includes turning passwords and virtual waiting rooms on by default for free users and K-12 education accounts.