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Zoom’s Terms of Service Debacle Raises Concerns about Non-Legal Tech for Law Firms and Court Reporters

Zoom is once again[1] the topic of conversation after making amendments to its Terms of Service (ToS) earlier this year. Specifically, Zoom changed its ToS in March, with an effective date of July 27, 2023, purporting to effect automatic consent to use customer meeting content to train its AI machine learning models. After the new terms sat quietly on their website for months, a blogger unleashed a hailstorm on August 7, reporting that the new terms granted Zoom “license to use and process customer content in any way, including for the training of artificial intelligence models and algorithms.”[2]

The blog post spread quickly and spurred anxious Zoom users to speak out against the move and against Zoom leveraging highly sensitive information without opt-in consent from its customers. The reaction was so swift, Zoom quickly reissued new terms, made multiple blog posts backtracking their position, and even issued a statement of apology from their CEO. The episode still serves to demonstrate that the rapidly evolving landscape of technology, AI, and cyber threats, along with forthcoming legislation governing the same, present new challenges for safeguarding information.

Even though Zoom pulled back on some of its changes, other changes continue to cause concern about Zoom’s commitment to privacy and its potential impact on the use of the platform for confidential legal proceedings. Take for example, Zoom’s revised ToS explanation that: “Different contracts exist for customers that buy directly from us, including enterprises and customers in regulated verticals like education and healthcare, and updates to the online terms of service do not impact these customers.” (Emphasis Added). But Zoom makes no accommodation for legal proceedings and the lawyers that represent health care providers and educators, their boards, their investors, their pension plans, their clients, and all their service providers that may be using Zoom to discuss, exchange, process, and handle the sensitive and confidential information in a manner that is clearly not for the delivery of healthcare or education services. Zoom’s failure to give thought to the legal industry underscores the challenge. The legal industry is unique in an exponentially magnified sense from other industries since the legal industry constantly discusses and handles sensitive and privileged information in the discussions that they have on a daily basis. Indeed, because lawyers possess sensitive2 information, the use of legal tech, and not just any tech, is vital to the practice of law.

At least one prominent group has publicly expressed its alarm over these changes. For example, the National Court Reporters Association issued a public letter to Zoom on behalf of court reporters nationwide stating that “[p]ermitting Zoom to share and store data as it pertains to legal proceedings, depositions, and captioning ... presents a privacy risk that could allow for the improper and illegal disclosure of private information” as well as chain of custody concerns for certain evidence.[3]

That’s the very reason Calloquy was created and why we believe it is essential that corporations and law firms pay particular attention to the use of legal technology in litigation. While law firms and lawyers alike should ensure their technology is specific to and properly designed for their legal proceedings and processes, as mandated by Model Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1, we are past the times of blindly relying on the videoconferencing tools that supported us during the pandemic. Calloquy understands this.

Calloquy is dedicated to the legal profession and protecting law firm and client data with the understanding of the sensitive and privileged context in which that data is shared. Because we are designed for the legal profession, protecting the sensitive data of court reporters, lawyers, and their clients is at the core of what we do.