American schools are banning Zoom and switching to Microsoft Teams

Zoom logo on a building

After many schools adopted Zoom to conduct online lessons during the coronavirus lockdown, concerns about security and privacy have led to a ban on the video conferencing software across the US.

The chancellor of New York City's Department of Education Richard A Carranza sent an email to school principals telling them to "cease using Zoom as soon as possible". And he is not alone; schools in other parts of the country have taken similar action, and educators are now being trained to use Microsoft Teams as this has been suggested as a suitable alternative, partly because it is compliant with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act).

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Large numbers of teachers spent time learning how to use Zoom to continue educating pupils who are confined to their homes. But growing criticism of Zoom for its approach to privacy and security has given cause for a rethink. Documents seen by Chalkbeat show that principals in NYC have been told: "Based on the DOE's review of those documented concerns, the DOE will no longer permit the use of Zoom at this time".

The Washington Post quotes Danielle Filson, spokesperson for the NYC Education Department, as saying:

Providing a safe and secure remote learning experience for our students is essential, and upon further review of security concerns, schools should move away from using Zoom as soon as possible. There are many new components to remote learning, and we are making real-time decisions in the best interest of our staff and student. We will support staff and students in transitioning to different platforms such as Microsoft Teams that have the same capabilities with appropriate security measures in place.

The Post also reports that Clark County Public Schools in Nevada were also moving away from Zoom, saying in a statement that the decision had been taken to " disable access to Zoom out of an abundance of caution due to instances of hacking that created unsafe environments for teachers and students".

Schools in Utah, Washington state and beyond are also looking into Zoom alternatives.

Over the last few weeks, Zoom has been battling against bad press following numerous issues with privacy and security. The company has already introduced changes to address some of the problems that have been raised, and has stopped the development of new feature while it concentrates on fixing flaws. Taking to Twitter this weekend, Zoom tried to assure people of the safety of its product:

The company also issued a statement, saying:

Zoom takes user privacy, security, and trust extremely seriously. Zoom was originally developed for enterprise use, and has been confidently selected for complete deployment by a large number of institutions globally, following security reviews of our user, network and datacenter layers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working around-the-clock to ensure that hospitals, universities, schools, and other organizations across the world can stay connected and operational. As more and new kinds of users start using Zoom during this time, Zoom has been proactively engaging to make sure they understand Zoom's relevant policies, as well as the best ways to use the platform and protect their meetings. We have encouraged our education users in particular to follow the guidance contained here: -- and we recently updated the default settings for education users enrolled in our K-12 program to enable waiting rooms and ensure teachers are the only ones who can share content in class by default. We are proud of the role we are playing during this challenging time and committed to providing educators and other users with the tools they need.

Image credit: Michael Vi / Shutterstock

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