The video conferencing app said it had consulted with rights groups, child safety advocates, government representatives, encryption experts, and its security council to gather feedback.
“We are also pleased to share that we have identified a path forward that balances the legitimate right of all users to privacy and the safety of users on our platform,” the firm’s CEO Eric Yuan said in a recent blog post.
“This will enable us to offer E2EE as an advanced add-on feature for all of our users around the globe – free and paid – while maintaining the ability to prevent and fight abuse on our platform.”
Users of the free service will be required to authenticate in a one-off process with information such as their phone number, for the platform to “reduce the mass creation of abusive accounts,” Yuan added.
The news came as rights groups, tech firms, and internet users petitioned the firm to reverse its policy on E2EE.
They argued that E2EE is too essential to be a premium feature, especially in the context of global protests against racial injustice and government oppression. The technology protects activists, journalists, and other vulnerable parts of the population from government repression and surveillance, as well as from cyber-criminals, they said.
Mozilla welcomed the news. The tech non-profit, which wrote an open letter to Zoom earlier in the week signed by tens of thousands of internet users, argued that E2EE should always be the default setting, not a luxury.
“We’re heartened that Zoom listened to consumers, especially at a time when millions of people are relying on the platform to stay connected amid the pandemic and to organize in support of Black lives,” it said in a statement.
“Zoom’s decision is part of an emerging trend: Consumers are demanding more of the technology products and services they use every day. And companies are changing their products to meet these demands.”