Zoom says its new AI tools aren’t stealing ownership of your content

Zoom says its new AI tools aren’t stealing ownership of your content
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Zoom doesn’t train its artificial intelligence models on audio, video, or text chats from the app “without customer consent,” according to a Monday blog post from Zoom’s chief product officer, Smita Hashim. After we first published this article, Zoom updated its terms of service with a similar statement. In her post, Hashim also writes that “our customers continue to own and control their content.”

The company’s handling of customer data for AI training has come under scrutiny after a Stack Diary article reported on March changes to the company’s terms of service that appeared to give the company broad control over user data for AI work.

The new sections appear to merge descriptions of Zoom’s license to show the content users want to have streamed without somehow giving the service ownership over it with the sections concerning AI tools. Long before the generative AI boom, this same approach has raised the ire of users reading the terms of service for services like Instagram and Twitter, as well as cloud storage sites like Dropbox and Google Drive.

Hashim writes that “our intention was to make clear that customers create and own their own video, audio, and chat content. We have permission to use this customer content to provide value-added services based on this content, but our customers continue to own and control their content.”

The Stack Diary report specifically highlighted two sections in Zoom’s terms of service, 10.2 and 10.4, that discuss how Zoom can handle user data.

  • 10.2 says that customers “consent to Zoom’s access, use, collection, creation, modification, distribution, processing, sharing, maintenance, and storage of Service Generated Data” for “any purpose,” including “machine learning or artificial intelligence (including for the purposes of training and tuning of algorithms and models).”
  • 10.4 says that customers “agree to grant and hereby grant Zoom a perpetual, worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicensable, and transferable license” to use their data for things like “product and service development,” machine learning, and artificial intelligence.

The newly-added statement added after section 10.4 reads: “Notwithstanding the above, Zoom will not use audio, video or chat Customer Content to train our artificial intelligence models without your consent.”

Zoom, like many other companies, has been marketing new AI-powered features as of late, including a tool to help people catch up on meetings they’ve missed and one that helps people compose messages in its Slack-like Team Chat app.

In Monday’s blog post, Hashim says that account owners and administrators can choose if they want to turn on the features, which are still available on a trial basis, and that people who turn them on will “be presented with a transparent consent process for training our AI models using your customer content.”

Hashim adds that user content is “used solely to improve the performance and accuracy of these AI services” and that any shared data “will not be used for training of any third-party models.” Hashim also says that when AI services are in use, it tells meeting participants.

In Section 10.4, our intention was to make sure that if we provided value-added services (such as a meeting recording), we would have the ability to do so without questions of usage rights. The meeting recording is still owned by the customer, and we have a license to that content in order to deliver the service of recording. An example of a machine learning service for which we need license and usage rights is our automated scanning of webinar invites / reminders to make sure that we aren’t unwittingly being used to spam or defraud participants. The customer owns the underlying webinar invite, and we are licensed to provide the service on top of that content.

Hashim’s blog has also been updated to clarify what the terms of service sections in question mean for healthcare and education customers. “We will not use customer content, including education records or protected health information, to train our artificial intelligence models without your consent,” Hashim says.

Zoom isn’t the only company making AI-related terms of service updates that have caught some attention. Google recently updated its privacy policy to note that its AI-powered tools like Google Translate and Google Bard might be trained using data scraped from public sources on the internet.

Update August 7th, 4:46PM ET: Added new information from Zoom’s updated blog and terms of service.

Correction August 7th, 1:18PM ET: The terms of service language in this article went into effect in March, not July. We regret the error.

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