CONSUMER CATCH-UP: Zoom revises privacy policy, Airbnb extends cancellation window, and FTC reports surge in coronavirus-related reports

ByMichael Finney and Simone Chavoor KGO logo
Wednesday, April 1, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Zoom rewrites, clarifies privacy policy on customer data

Teleconferencing company Zoom is changing its privacy policies after concern from consumer advocates.

As more people work and attend school online, Zoom has seen a surge in business. However, Consumer Reports and other advocates have expressed concern over Zoom's privacy policies, which "allowed the company to collect information from users' meetings-from videos to transcripts to the notes you might have shared through Zoom's chat feature," according to Consumer Reports. Consumer Reports also notes that Zoom's policy did not preclude the company from using this data for ad targeting.

In a blog post Sunday, Zoom's Chief Legal Officer Aparna Bawa clarified the company's privacy policies. It outlined how they "handle data, including what we collect and how we obtain it, how we use it, when and if we disclose it, and some of your options for managing your data with Zoom." The blog also states that they have established policies to protect K-12 students using Zoom for school.

"This is a pretty significant rewrite with some real improvements," says Justin Brookman, Consumer Reports' director of privacy and technology policy.

Airbnb extends cancelation window, covers hosts' lost earnings

Airbnb is extending its cancelation policy, offering refunds to guests with reservations through May 31.

Some Airbnb hosts have angrily protested the travel site's earlier decision to allow guests to cancel and get a full refund, despite the individual hosts' stated cancelation preferences. Now, not only is Airbnb extending the time frame where guests can cancel (trips booked before March 14, that begin before May 31), the company is footing the bill. Airbnb has set aside $250 million to cover the hosts' lost earnings from the cancelations.

In a letter sent to Airbnb hosts, CEO Brian Chesky outlined the new policy: "When a guest cancels an accommodation reservation due to a COVID-19 related circumstance, with a check-in between March 14 and May 31, we will pay you 25% of what you would normally receive through your cancellation policy. This applies retroactively to all COVID-19 related cancellations during this period." Chesky also noted that "this decision was not a business decision, but based on protecting public health."

FTC reports surge in coronavirus-related fraud complaints

The Federal Trade Commission is reporting a surge in coronavirus-related complaints.

In a press release issued Tuesday, the FTC stated that they have received more than 7,800 reports from consumers since the beginning of the year -- and half of those arrived in the last week alone.

Most of the reports were regarding coronavirus-related fraud, including "travel and vacation related reports about cancellations and refunds, reports about problems with online shopping, mobile texting scams, and government and business imposter scams." In tallying the complaints that mention the coronavirus, the FTC reports that consumers have lost $4.77 million in such scams.

The FTC urges consumers who have encountered fraud -- coronavirus-related or not -- to report it on their website.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.