Opinion | Privacy Cannot Be a Casualty of the Coronavirus – The New York Times

By The Editorial BoardThe editorial board is a group of opinion journalists whose views are informed by expertise, research, debate and certain longstanding values. It is separate from the newsroom.April 7, 20207Credit…Illustration by Michael Houtz; photograph by Getty ImagesMillions of Americans, sheltering in their homes from the coronavirus, have turned to communications platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts and Facebook Messenger in order to work or stay connected to friends and family. Free and easy to use, the services are gobbling up record numbers of new users.But there’s a saying in Silicon Valley: If the product is free, you are the product.This is not business as usual, though. Americans aren’t willingly surrendering their online identities during this pandemic — many are being compelled to do so by their schools, family or work. Just as a swath of manufacturers are switching their production lines to ventilator and mask production for the greater good, corporations that normally view every new registered user as a data point to exploit need to take a pause on profiting from online data harvesting.For those fortunate enough to have laptops and reliable broadband internet at home, it is not sufficient to simply update privacy policies or customer agreements. Americans need a guarantee that conversations held over video chat won’t be data collection events.The videoconferencing company Zoom has been a standout brand of the pandemic, in part because its daily user numbers ballooned to 200 million in March from 10 million last year, making it one of the few buoyant stocks amid the recent sell-off.

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