A Bug In The Zoom Mac Client Makes It Appear That Zoom Is Spying On Mac Users

A question a couple of my clients have called me to troubleshoot an issue that I want to bring to light. And it’s one that I have been able to reproduce rather easily.

Here’s the rundown.

If you have Zoom 5.91 or earlier installed on your Mac, and you’re running macOS Monterey 12.1 or earlier, and the Zoom app is running but not in a meeting of any sort, you’ll eventually notice that the orange dot that denotes when your microphone is in use appears in the top right corner on the menu bar. It will look like this:

One of the things that was added to macOS Monterey was a notification that lets you know when the microphone is in use. And that notification is the orange dot that you see above. And it appears that the Zoom app is apparently using the microphone. Which I confirmed by checking control center.

I tested this after reboots and in one case a reinstall of macOS and always got this result. Now to be clear, my guess is that Zoom are not spying on their users. But this isn’t a good look for Zoom regardless as many people are going to assume that they are. And in the process of researching this, I found out two things:

  • First, this was supposedly fixed in version 5.91 of Zoom as per these release notes. But that apparently does not seem to be true as I was able to reproduce this numerous times on numerous macOS computers with version 5.91. This takes away Zoom’s ability to say that users should simply update to the latest version.
  • Second, I am not alone in seeing this. This thread in the Zoom community along with this thread on Stackexchange details people seeing this as well. So clearly this is a pervasive problem that hasn’t been addressed by Zoom.

My advice is that you should only run the Zoom client when you actually need it until this gets addressed. Or if you’re really paranoid, use another conferencing product. As for Zoom, they’ve had their issues with security over the years. If you search my blog you will find those stories with ease. They need to step up and put this to bed quickly if they want to avoid going back to the days where trust in their product was questionable at best.

UPDATE 2/11/22: Zoom said that it has fixed the issue in version 5.9.3. But they said that in version 5.9.1 so I would only run Zoom when you need to run it to mitigate this issue should it still be present.

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