The CEO of video conferencing giant Zoom wants his employees to come in at least two days a week — telling staff during a companywide meeting that they simply just ‘cannot have a great conversation’ via remote meetings alone.
Zoom, the San Jose tech company that transformed office work during the Covid-19 pandemic, has now mandated that any employee living with a 50-mile radius of a Zoom office must clock-in onsite at least 40-percent of the time.
‘Quite often, you come up with great ideas,’ Zoom CEO Eric Yuan said during the company’s August 3 meeting, ‘but when we are all on Zoom, it’s really hard.’
‘We cannot debate each other well,’ Yuan explained, ‘because everyone tends to be very friendly when you join a Zoom call.’
One of the chief beneficiaries of the Covid lockdown era’s revolution in remote work, Zoom has come under fire in recent weeks for making potentially exploitative changes to their conferencing app’s terms and conditions (T+C).
Buried within Zoom’s new T+C, the tech company quietly announced its intention to scrape its own users’ private video, audio and messaging sessions for ‘training and tuning’ its future artificial intelligence (AI) projects.
Zoom CEO Eric Yuan wants his employees to come in at least two days a week — telling staff that they simply just ‘cannot have a great conversation’ via remote meetings. Above, Yuan stands before the opening bell during Zoom’s initial public offering at the Nasdaq MarketSite
Zoom, the San Jose tech company that transformed office work during the Covid-19 pandemic, has now mandated that any employee living with a 50-mile radius of a Zoom office must clock-in onsite at least two days a week. ‘When we are all on Zoom,’ Zoom’s CEO said, ‘it’s really hard’
‘In our early days, we all knew each other,’ Yuan said in audio from the August 3 meeting, which had been leaked to Insider.
But, as the company has scaled up to meet its growing role in office culture worldwide, Yuan says that Zoom’s own camaraderie between staffers eroded due both to the isolation of remote work and the expansion of their workforce.
‘Over the past several years, we’ve hired so many new ‘Zoomies’ that it’s really hard to build trust,’ Yuan explained.
‘Trust is a foundation for everything,’ he added. ‘Without trust, we will be slow.’
The erosion of trust internally at Zoom echoes customers’ own second thoughts on the app’s privacy standards, both for personal security and corporate trade secrets.
Zoom’s new T+C sparked a wave of outrage online, with users threatening to cancel their accounts over the potentially invasive changes.
Elliot Higgins of news organization Bellingcat said: ‘We run our training workshops on Zoom, so Zoom is effectively planning to train its AI on our entire workshop content with no compensation, so bye-bye Zoom.’
Artificial intelligence models are commonly trained with large amounts of publicly available data, often taken from the open internet via web-scraping programs.
But Zoom’s move will apply those same techniques to private customer data, which will likely include everything from intimate family calls to sensitive corporate meetings — ironically not unlike Zoom’s own meeting leaked to Insider.
Buried within Zoom’s new terms and conditions, the tech company quietly announced plans to scrape its users’ private video, audio and messaging sessions for ‘training and tuning’ future AI projects. Outraged users took to Twitter (now called X) to voice their frustrations
High-profile users, including Elliot Higgins of the news organization Bellingcat, threatened to cancel their Zoom accounts over the video conferencing app’s potentially invasive changes
The changes came in paragraph 10.4 of Zoom’s Terms and Conditions (above)
Yuan’s comments in the leak are not the first indication that Zoom would be making an about-face on the benefits of remote work and video conferencing.
Although the firm once said that its staff would be permitted to work from home ‘indefinitely,’ the revised plan became public this August with Zoom stating that it intended to mandate ‘a structured hybrid approach.’
The company said in a statement that the new policy — which will rollout country by country over the next two months — is what’s ‘most effective for Zoom.’
Despite the new policy, Zoom insisted that it would still continue to ‘hire the best talent, regardless of location.’
Per reports from the end of January 2023, the company currently employees 8,400 people, with over half of its staff based in the United States.
‘As a company, we are in a better position to use our own technologies,’ Zoom said in a statement, ‘continue to innovate, and support our global customers.’
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