Zoom AI Training: Should Zoom Use Your Data Without Your Consent?

Earlier this year, Zoom tried to sneak in a policy update that would allow it to use your video calls, chats, messages, whiteboards, and anything else accessed through its platform to train its AI without your knowledge, consent, or compensation.
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Looks like Hollywood isn’t the only one that has to worry about the use of artificial intelligence (AI) without compensation. In March of 2023, Zoom’s terms of service update included the use of your personal information and the information contained in the calls you make via its platform to train its AI. All this would be done royalty-free, meaning Zoom customers wouldn’t be compensated for the use of private video calls, polls, messages, whiteboard data, and other AI training material.

Social media exploded with pushback, which led Zoom to release updated terms with the ability to opt-out. As of the first week of September 2023, Zoom’s third policy update in a year stated that Zoom would not use your Customer Content to train its own or any third-party AI tools.

Looks like the videoconferencing company got caught with its hand in the cookie jar and then decided to swear off cookies entirely. But does Zoom’s new diet have staying power? We'll explore what you should know about Zoom's AI policy, plus ways you can protect your data from AI using private browsers, one of the best VPNs for security, and more.

In this article
Why is Zoom using my data to train its AI?
Will Zoom’s AI use my data without consent?
How do I opt out of my data being used for Zoom AI training?
What other companies might use my data for AI training?
4 ways to protect your data from AI
Zoom AI training FAQs
Bottom line

Why is Zoom using my data to train its AI?

Artificial intelligence models are nothing without humans. This statement may not age well when the AI overlords finally eclipse us, but for right now, technology needs humanity.

AI has to learn, much like a growing child, how humans behave, talk, and communicate. AI learns by analyzing billions of bits and bytes of data from real human interactions. Siri and Alexa are the first generations of AI, and much like their human counterparts, they have evolved as they’ve learned from us.

But this next generation of AI needs even more data to become more sophisticated and seamless.

Facebook and its parent company Meta have done an unnervingly good job of collecting more information on each of us than we should ever be comfortable with, and they use that data for profit. If a company like Zoom wants to integrate its own AI into its products, it either has to pay the data hoarders like Meta or harvest its own data. That’s likely why Zoom tried to sneak a policy change in, hoping users wouldn’t notice. Fortunately, privacy experts spotted this

If you want to use Meta services like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Threads on your phone, you should use them only through your browser and delete the apps from your mobile device. There’s more control over privacy via your browser than the broad permissions you give the apps — though you should update your social media privacy settings too.

What is Zoom IQ?

Zoom IQ, which is now called the AI Companion, currently sends transcripts of meeting summaries only after they’ve ended. The meeting host has the ability to enable it and decide if the transcript is sent to all attendees after the meeting.

There are projections that this feature will turn into a more integrated AI companion in 2024 as Zoom expands its technology. It looks like there will be an integrated chatbot within your Zoom product that will allow you to interact with it, like you would any other chatbot. There’s a lot of speculation about what it will do, but theoretically, you should be able to ask it about past meetings, the status of current projects, and even third-party apps.

While this could all be incredibly useful, it could also be incredibly invasive. Since Zoom is adamant it’s not using your data to train its AI, we’re interested as to where it’s getting its AI training materials from. Without customer consent, the generative AI features will require other AI models to train its algorithm.

As of the date of publishing, Zoom claims to not use “Customer Content,” which it describes as anything generated by you or your meeting participants, to train its AI. But this is a pivot from earlier this year when Zoom clearly outlined in an updated privacy policy that it had "perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license....to redistribute, publish, access, use, store, transmit, review, disclose, preserve, extract, modify, reproduce, share, use, display, copy, distribute, translate, transcribe, create derivative works, and process Customer Content."

This update enraged social media users, mostly privacy experts and enthusiasts, as there was no ability to opt out of the use of your intellectual property. Zoom’s reversal of these amendments to the privacy policy was swift.

Yet the privacy policy clearly states underneath this disclaimer that it still has the right to use your data “to provide and develop products and services to account owners, their licensed end users, and those they invite to join meetings and webinars hosted on their accounts, including to customize Zoom products and services and recommendations for accounts or their users.”

While Zoom vehemently denies it will use your data to train its AI, it already paid out an $85 million class action lawsuit after it was discovered that Zoom lied about its end-to-end encryption. It ended up selling your data to — you guessed it — Meta (and others) after harvesting it between 2016 and 2021. If Zoom lied about that, is it lying about rolling back this AI training policy? Only time will tell.

How do I opt out of my data being used for Zoom AI training?

As of right now, there’s nothing you can do to opt out of your data being used to train Zoom’s AI. Zoom has rolled back its AI training language in its privacy policy, and there’s no way to opt out of the data collected and used as part of Zoom’s normal business operations.

In the future, if Zoom decides to reintroduce this, you may be able to opt out — or you may not. If you can’t opt out, you’ll need to decide if the service is worth using once you see what data will and won’t be collected.

What other companies might use my data for AI training?

Honestly? All of them. If you’re using an app on your phone, you’re likely feeding data to companies harvesting it to train AI.

Social media is a huge culprit, but not the only one. Google, Apple, Meta, ChatGPT, OpenAI, TikTok, X (formerly known as Twitter), and Snapchat all use some form of user data to train AI.

Then there are other companies that are more surprising. Reddit, for instance, has let data scrapers all over its site to comb your interactions to train AI, but the CEO recently said he was going to start charging rather than giving it away for free. Um, thanks?

Even Grammarly and Apple iMessages, which are supposed to help correct your spelling and grammar, are in the AI game, using your interactions for free to make the tech offered more sophisticated.

Right now, there really isn’t a way to opt out of this data collection. If you agree to the terms and conditions, you agree to allow these companies to build their databases (and fortunes) off your intellectual property.

As Ben Wyatt, the beloved “Parks and Recreation” character, said in an episode in the last season, “A person should not have to have an advanced law degree to avoid being taken advantage of by a multibillion-dollar company.” But without government regulation of these companies, or extreme protests and outcries from citizens, these practices will likely stay in place.

4 ways to protect your data from AI

While it may seem that you’re at the mercy of Big Tech, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage and reduce your online footprint.

Companies build profiles of you based on your online presence. Some of the information you volunteer, like answers to social media quizzes. (Yes, even “What’s your Elf name” is a data jackpot.) Other information you offer up simply by existing online or having a certain app on your phone.

If you’re looking to lock down your data or just want some best practices for reducing your footprint, here are ways to protect your privacy:

1. Don’t share sensitive information with AI

This is kind of a no-brainer, but if you’re using a tool like ChatGPT, don’t tell it about yourself. That may be difficult if you’re pasting your entire resume and asking it to tailor a new resume to a job description, but you’re entering into that agreement willingly.

Ultimately, you want to give the AI as little identifying information about you as possible.

2. Use a private browser and search engine

No, Google’s Incognito mode is not the same as a private browser. In fact, it’s still mining your data.

But private browsers like Brave browser or Tor Browser can help keep the data miners away. Couple your browser with a private search engine like DuckDuckGo or Startpage to keep your search results from being logged.

3. Switch your messenger app

WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are both owned by Meta, which has repeatedly violated its own privacy policies to continue to sell data, leading to a $5 billion fine from the FTC. Even having these apps on your phone can mean a privacy violation. Meta apps are not above snooping into other spaces on your phone to gather data.

There are encrypted messenger apps like the Signal messaging app and Telegram that respect your privacy. (We may have recently made all our friends switch to Signal and dropped any group chats in WhatsApp or Messenger who wouldn’t make the switch. Yes, we practice what we preach.)

4. Use a VPN

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are kind of a privacy catchall. Because a VPN encrypts your traffic, it’s easy to turn one on and enjoy a significantly more private internet experience. We even use ours on our home network for privacy and to avoid ISP throttling.

You should always use a VPN while on public or shared Wi-Fi, but using it even while you’re on your home network can help stop Big Tech from stealing your information to increase its company profits. The best VPNs even come with additional features that make your experience more enjoyable, like ad blockers and anti-malware protection.

3 VPN apps that keep your data anonymous

A VPN is one of your best defenses against data mining. It encrypts your traffic, helps you stay anonymous online, and can stop ads and trackers from following you around the internet. This reduces your online footprint and limits the profile of you that’s built by the companies watching your every move.

  • ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN has many extra features and bonuses that provide you with a comprehensive VPN experience. You have the ability to purchase it on its own or use your subscription with its proprietary Aircove router that comes preinstalled with ExpressVPN to cover every device in your home. It’s a little more expensive month to month than its competitors, but the power and security may be well worth it.

    Get ExpressVPN | Read Our ExpressVPN Review
  • NordVPN: NordVPN is probably the most recognizable VPN online. That’s for good reason. Even with all the great options on the market, NordVPN is still leading the way as one of the best VPN options available. Nord also offers more than VPN services — you can bundle your password manager and cloud storage into one Nord subscription.

    Get NordVPN | Read Our NordVPN Review
  • CyberGhost: CyberGhost is great for streamers with its streaming-optimized servers. It also offers optimized servers for torrenting and gaming as well. CyberGhost works well with everyday internet browsing too, and comes at a budget-friendly price.

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Zoom AI training FAQs


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How does Zoom IQ work?

Currently, the Zoom AI Companion, as it’s been rebranded, only provides transcripts of calls. That will change in 2024 as Zoom rolls out a more comprehensive AI Companion with still speculated-about abilities.


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Can Zoom use your likeness for AI?

It’s unclear. Zoom’s privacy policy states it can take your Customer Content and use it for product improvement purposes, but it also states it won’t use any customer data/likeness to train its AI.

The policy is somewhat contradictory, and since Zoom has been caught lying before, it’s hard to tell if this policy will be upheld.


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How do I turn off Zoom AI?

Moderators can turn off AI Companion for right now. It’s unclear if that will still be the case when the feature receives a major upgrade in 2024. Most Zoom account owners agree that user consent should be mandatory when accessing Zoom meetings or other Zoom users’ data for any purpose.

Bottom line

While the majority of Americans are feeling the crunch of inflation, Big Tech is making billions off our collective interactions and intelligence and selling it back to us as “useful tools.” It’s very “Fight Club,” and we’re not here for it.

If you want to reduce the free intellectual property you’re giving up to the AI programmers, make sure you’re diligent about what you share online. And use privacy tools like private browsers and search engines, as well as the best VPNs for online privacy. Big Brother’s watching, and he’s selling off your ideas as his own. Cut him off and take back control.

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Author Details
Mary is a seasoned cybersecurity writer with over seven years of experience. With a B.S. in Liberal Arts from Clarion University and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Point Park University, she educates audiences on scams, antivirus software, and more. Her passion lies in educating audiences on helpful ways to protect their data.