As scientists from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Chicago found , video conferencing programs (including Zoom, Skype, Google Meet and Discord) continue to collect audio data even if the user has muted their microphone.
Scientists conducted a series of experiments, running applications on different operating systems, and found that the pressed “Mute” button only turns off sound transmission to the interlocutors, but continues to collect audio data. Most applications do not use these records, but thanks to them it is easy to determine what a person is doing. This was also tested by scientists: they trained the neural network to determine six basic actions (cooking, listening to music, cleaning, etc.), and then applied it to the sounds recorded by the programs. In 82% of cases, the background activity of a person was correctly determined.
According to the researchers, the fact that for many users turning off the sound also means turning off any interaction of the system with a person is important here. However, this is not the case, which leads to a breach of confidentiality. Scientists will present more detailed results of their research at the Privacy Enhancing Technologies Symposium event this summer, writes Durov’s Code .
By the way, this is not the first such “convict” of Zoom. Previously , the user experienced that the microphone icon in the program was still lit when Zoom was in the background and no calls were made. In a thread with discussions of such a problem, other users confirmed a similar situation, after which Zoom released an update that supposedly fixed the error, but according to the clients of the program, the bug remained.