Zoom Official Charged in Federal Court for Providing User Data to Chinese Government

While you were busy working from home, you may have hosted or participated in a Zoom call or two. Now, in court documents unsealed on December 18, 2020, in a Brooklyn, New York, federal courtroom, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has charged that a Zoom employee worked with Chinese government officials to terminate accounts of Americans and disrupt video calls.

1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre

The charges relate to Zoom calls held to remember the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre of pro-democracy activists. The case also raises serious questions about what steps the California-based company uses to protect personal data on its platform.

May and June 2020 Zoom Video Calls

According to the official complaint, Zoom executive Xinjiang Jin worked with the Chinese government to determine when calls needed to be interrupted and disconnected. His job was supposed to be listening for political or religious discussions banned in China. Xinjiang reportedly told the Chinese Communist Party the emails, addresses and other sensitive information from at least four video calls occurring in May and June 2020. The Chinese government has worked very hard to keep any mention of the horrible deaths that happened in Tiananmen Square off the internet.

Zoom’s Response

Zoom says that they have worked closely with United States government officials. The company admits that Jin provided personal details of at least 10 users from outside China to the Chinese Communist Party. Zoom fired Jin, and they placed others on administrative leave.

Ongoing Problem

Officials at Zoom say that this is an ongoing problem for high-tech companies who must try to navigate the need to access Chinese companies for their own financial gain while complying with increasing demands from the Chinese internet police. The Zoom announcement occurred on the same day that the United States Department of Commerce added several companies to their list for human rights violations.