April 19, 2020— The Federal Trade Commission will take into account “good faith” when exercising prosecutorial discretion for investigating Zoom, said agency commissioner Noah Phillips in an event hosted by Politico on Tuesday.
Although Phillips said, “I can’t speak to whether there’s an investigation,” in case there is, Zoom’s non-mandatory but welcome embrace of hundreds of millions of new users for free will demonstrate a certain amount of goodwill.
Zoom has been in the news recently for failings in cybersecurity. Notably, it has been the subject of “zoombombing” wherein anonymous individuals enter a Zoom conference and broadcast pornographic or racist content to attendees.
These actions have spurred strong reaction in the government by some, such as the New York attorney general’s office, which announced it will be investigating Zoom for these security failings.
When asked if the FTC was “letting down its guard” in regards to a hypothetical Zoom probe, the commissioner pushed back. “I wouldn’t put it that way,” Phillips said.
Likening Zoom’s services to toilet paper in the time of quarantine, they are “something that matters a lot to Americans” in the current climate.
Phillips also provided updates on the FTC’s ongoing investigations of anti-competitive practices by big technology companies.
The FTC is handling these investigations “as best [it] can, and pretty well,” Phillips said. “We’re adjusting to our new online world too.” Phillips mentioned that the processing of some litigation is “slowing down,” but “that would be normal” during such a disruptive time.
Also, Phillips pointed out that the number of filings for approval for mergers are going down. Since the economy is tumbling, Phillips said, it makes sense that companies are taking less risks and not wanting to acquire other companies.
“Antitrust enforcement is not shutting down for this crisis,” Phillips insisted.
Phillips also addressed the “whispers out there” that people are trying “to use the crisis to violate the law.”
He mentioned seeing fake cures being pushed online and imposter government officials spewing mistruths. He said his office has seen “a decline of robocalls” during the pandemic, although robocalls haven’t stopped completely, he acknowledged.
“A lot of these online tools do present risks in terms of privacy and cybersecurity,” Phillips acknowledged, but also “history is riddled” with examples of positive technology be abused, such as landlines for prank calls and the internet for scam emails.
“A tremendous amount of life is being brought online,” Phillips said. “It is good that we have the tools that we have today.”
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