Zooming into Privacy Issues

Category: Blog Posts
Date: Oct 6, 2020 03:55 PM

Believe it or not, it’s been approximately 6 months since Governor Newsom announced California’s stay-at-home order. Since then, many government agencies, courts, and schools have switched to using videoconferencing platforms such as Zoom or Google Meet to help their offices stay connected during the pandemic. While these virtual meeting platforms have played a vital role in helping many employers maintain business operations, employers should also keep in mind the different privacy concerns that may arise while using these systems.

One major issue that arose at the beginning stages of the pandemic when people started using Zoom more frequently was “Zoom-Bombing.” Zoom-Bombing occurs when an uninvited individual disrupts a Zoom meeting by hacking into a call, allowing the Zoom-Bomber to view and attend the meeting, and in some instances, share unwanted content on a shared meeting screen displayed to all attendees. As a result of Zoom-Bombing and other privacy-related concerns, Zoom released security updates with updated safety features and controls. Employers who use Zoom to maintain their business operations should take advantage of these features in order to prevent unwanted participants from attending a Zoom call and ensure that Zoom meetings are secure and free from disruption.

One feature, for example, is that Zoom allows meeting hosts to enable a virtual waiting room, where participants stand by before the host admits them into a meeting. The host can then lock the meeting room after the meeting has begun so no other individuals may join. Zoom also allows users to create a unique meeting ID number and password that participants must enter prior to joining a Zoom meeting, which helps prevent unwanted guests from joining. The host can also change the meeting setting so that only the host can share their screen, and disable the chat feature to prohibit meeting participants from individually messaging with one another or sharing attachments.

Another issue that has come up with videoconferencing systems is recording. Recording virtual meetings can be helpful for those employees who are unable to attend the meeting live. However, if you plan on recording a meeting, you should keep in mind some of the privacy issues related to recording confidential communications. California has a two-party consent law, which makes it a crime for an individual to record or to eavesdrop on a “confidential communication,” including a private conversation or telephone call, unless all parties to the conversation consent. Under California Penal Code section 632, a “confidential communication” includes any communication in which a party to the communication reasonably expects that the conversation will remain private. Violations of this statute may lead to a fine of up to $2,500, or imprisonment of up to a year in jail. One way to obtain consent would be by enabling meeting attendees to agree to being recorded. Zoom has a feature that allows a meeting host to enable a recording disclaimer by which attendees receive a notification at the beginning of the meeting when a recording starts, or if they are joining a session that is already being recorded. The attendee can then provide consent by either choosing to stay in the session or leaving the meeting.

Some agencies and courts may also have restrictions on recording certain meetings, which may also include prohibiting “screenshots,” or taking photos of a virtual meeting. Employers should review their internal policies and rules to determine whether or not a meeting may be recorded.

Videoconferencing technologies play a vital role in keeping employees connected. However, employers should be wary of some of the issues that arise when utilizing these systems. By implementing these tips when conducing work-related business, an employer can help address some of the privacy issues that may arise.

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