Apple has given Zoom access to a private API that activates the camera during iPad Split View multitasking. Developer Jeremy Provost discovered the special treatment when he tried to enable the feature for his own Zoom client called Participant for Zoom.
Access to the camera is allowed via private permission. For some functions, such as CarPlay, developers can request permissions. However, Provost could not discover a way to request the iPad Camera Multitasking Entitlement, which appears to be com.apple.developer.foundation.multitasking-camera-access.
Access to this feature gives the Zoom app a competitive advantage. It’s beneficial to be able to keep an eye on your notes or watch a presentation during a video conference.
Provost notes that while there should be control over who gets access to the API, Apple does not treat all developers fairly.
It’s understandable that this permission might not be suitable for every app, or perhaps there are ways to abuse it. Maybe it makes sense that there is an approval process, like with CarPlay. But it doesn’t make sense for this to be private, undocumented and only accessible to Apple’s preferred partners. You can’t say, “We treat all developers the same,” while privately giving certain developers special capabilities.