Senator calls on FTC to create guidelines for video teleconferencing software

Senator says online conferencing software needs to be regulated and follow basic privacy and security rules.
Written by Catalin Cimpanu, Contributor
Zoom video conference teleconference
Image: Zoom

A US senator has asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) this week to look into creating comprehensive guidelines for companies that provide online conferencing services.

Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass), a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, has sent a letter to the FTC on Wednesday requesting that the agency intervene.

Markey says the FTC should create guidelines that serve a dual purpose -- guidance for video conferencing software makers to follow when building their services, and guidance for users when choosing or reviewing online conferencing software.

According to Markey, the FTC's guidance for video conferencing software makers should touch on topics like:

  • Implementing secure authentication and other safeguards against unauthorized access;
  • Enacting limits on data collection and recording;
  • Employing encryption and other security protocols for securing data; and
  • Providing clear and conspicuous privacy policies for users.

The guidance for consumers, such as end-users and companies relying on the video conferencing software, should address basic concepts like:

  • Identifying and preventing cyber threats such as phishing and malware;
  • Sharing links to online meetings without compromising security;
  • Restricting access to meetings via software settings; and
  • Recognizing that different versions of a company's service may provide varying levels of privacy protection.

Markey said the recent coverage of Zoom's security issues inspired him to write the FTC a letter this week, demanding action.

"Although much of the recent reporting has focused on Zoom due to its growing user base, [...], it is clear that no platform is immune from risks," the senator said.

"Other services, including Cisco Webex, Microsoft Teams, and Slack have all previously had security flaws exposed, raising the need for the FTC to issue guidance."

"The FTC should act as quickly as possible to guide companies and educate the public about how to best mitigate the risks that come with using online conferencing technology," Markey said.

Besides asking the FTC to issue guidance on how proper video conferencing software should look like, the Massachusetts senator also joined a chorus of voices urging the FTC to investigate Zoom for its past privacy and security missteps.

Other US senators who requested the same include Richard Blumenthal (R-Conn), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and Michael Bennet (D-Colo).

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