Was Zoom Listening While Not In Use? | Zoom Update for Mac Fixes Important Microphone Privacy Bug

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If you’re a Zoom user, there’s an important new update for the video conferencing app that you’ll want to install sooner rather than later if you’re a Mac user.

It looks like the new privacy features in macOS Monterey are working as designed, disclosing a bug in the Zoom macOS app that could have potentially led to eavesdropping on conversations after you had left a Zoom meeting.

While we haven’t encountered this issue ourselves, The Register notes that several users of the native macOS Zoom app noticed that their microphone remained on after ending a meeting.

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Mac users first noticed the problem in December, according to a post on the Zoom community forums, thanks to the new feature in macOS 12 that displays an orange dot in the status bar whenever the mic is in use — a feature that first came to the iPhone and iPad in iOS 14.

It appears that Zoom quietly tried to resolve the issue in late December when it released version 5.9.1 of the Zoom client for macOS, which included an entry in the release notes saying specifically that it “Resolved an issue regarding the microphone light indicator being triggered when not in a meeting on macOS Monterey.”

Unfortunately, it looks like Zoom may have jumped the gun on that one, as feedback from multiple users suggested that nothing actually changed after installing that version. On Friday, however, Zoom more publicly announced that it had finally resolved the issue in a post on its community forums.

We experienced a bug relating to the Zoom client for macOS, which could show the orange indicator light continue to appear after having left a meeting, call, or webinar. This bug was addressed in the Zoom client for macOS version 5.9.3 and we recommend you update to version 5.9.3 to apply the fix. Zoom Community Spokesperson

In a statement to The Verge, a Zoom representative, Matt Nagel, noted that this was simply a bug related to macOS, which simply failed “to properly terminate the microphone use post-meeting.” However, Nagel added that “Zoom has determined that this bug did not result in audio data being transmitted back to Zoom’s platform.”

To be clear, this problem only occurred if you left the Zoom client open after concluding a meeting, but in light of some of Zoom’s past shenanigans, it’s easy to see how this could have made some users a bit nervous.

How to Update Zoom for Mac

Zoom actually released the 5.9.3 update on January 25, 2022, but it’s important to keep in mind that Zoom updates don’t install automatically. You also may not always see update notifications in a timely manner.

Based on this bug, we’d recommend double-checking the version of Zoom you’re running before you start your next meeting:

  1. Open the Zoom app on your Mac.
  2. Click zoom.us in the menu bar.
  3. From the menu, click About Zoom.
  4. Note the version number shown. It should be 5.9.3 (or later).

If you’re not up-to-date, you should be able to use the Check for Updates option in the same menu. If that doesn’t find an update, however, and you’re not already running 5.9.3, you should visit Zoom’s website and download the latest version directly. Also, be sure to pay close attention when downloading, as Zoom doesn’t offer a universal binary — there are separate versions for Intel and Apple Silicon Macs.

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