'Zoom-bombed' | Salary cuts call eavesdropped on by rival company

Salary cuts call eavesdropped on by rival company

Staff at national news outlet The Independent were on a ‘confidential and sensitive video’ Zoom call to learn about salary cuts and furloughs when it was ‘zoom-bombed’ by an employee from a rival media organisation.

The reporter, Mark Di Stefano of The Financial Times, who is currently suspended by his employers, appeared on The Independent’s 100-person call for 16 seconds before leaving.

Press Gazette and The Independent reported that five minutes later a separate account joined for the remainder of the call, with video switched off, and this account was linked to the mobile phone used by Di Stefano.

News of salary cuts and furlough, as well as the reasons behind them, were shared by Di Stefano on Twitter as staff were still being told.

Shortly after the call The Financial Times published a report from Di Stefano which included confidential details about the company’s advertising downturn.

Although it is being reported that no legal action is being taken by The Independent there are suggestions that this behaviour could constitute an offence.

Media Law expert David Banks, commenting in Press Gazette, argued it could constitute an offence under the Computer Misuse Act.

He said: “So, the action here is logging into the meeting and causing the host computer to give you access.

“In the USA the FBI has issued warnings that so-called ‘Zoom bombing’ is a criminal offence, I haven’t seen similar warnings from UK authorities yet.”

Alternatively, there are debates over whether a meeting, which over 100 individuals attended, could be described as private or if an employee from The Independent had given Di Stefano access, so it might not have been a criminal act.

It is also reported that the same mobile phone account also logged into a call at London newspaper the Evening Standard where cuts were announced by Editor George Osbourne.

Zoom call fiascos

This isn’t the first time that Zoom calls have made headlines. Earlier this month HR Grapevine reported on a firm who laid off over 400 workers in a two-minute call on the platform.

Electric scooter company Bird, based in the US, reportedly invited staff to a conference call entitled ‘COVID-19 Update’. Employees were then met with a five-minute silence and a slide that read ‘COVID-19’.

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When the call started staff received a message that their role was being cut. Despite the call being scheduled for 30 minutes, it lasted just two minutes.

Employees who were on annual leave on the day of the call were unable to log into their computers after the announcement was made, with no idea as to why, which left many finding out the news through the media.

It also appears that bullying – which over seven in ten UK employees claim to have been a victim of or witnessed – hasn’t been eradicated despite many individuals now working from home.

One incident which made headlines involved Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething, who was caught on a Zoom call bad-mouthing the Welsh Assembly Member for Cardiff Central, Jenny Rathbone.

During a recent conference call where he addressed an unknown person, Gething reportedly said: “What the f*** is the matter with her?”

This was overheard by 20 other colleagues, where many in the call can be heard saying ‘no’ and trying to drown him out, however, sadly this was too late as he launched into his rant against Rathbone.

In addition, and what will concern HR practitioners, is that many staff are struggling to communicate via Zoom and other video chat functions.

A worrying 52% of professionals admitted that video calling made their lives more difficult and prevented them from being able to communicate effectively, compared to physical ‘face-to-face’ interactions.

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