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Precautions That Should be Taken on Videoconferencing – Legal Issues for Your Business in Massachusetts
Many businesses have been regularly using videoconferencing since the start of the Covid-9 pandemic. It gets around the necessity to socially distance and can have other advantages, too. It is cheaper to run a videoconference than a full blown face to face event and quicker to organize. It saves on lengthy (and expensive) airfares and accommodation bills and can even be used by employees, clients or executives while on the move. Post Covid, when a readily available vaccine returns us all to something like a new normal, the advantages of videoconferencing and the familiarity with its use may very well make its use continue.
With the virus not going away anytime soon and the prospect of a return to higher infection rates in Massachusetts as winter sets in there is a very real incentive for businesses to perfect their videoconferencing techniques.
There is a caveat, of course, which is that videoconferencing comes with its own legal issues which need to be sorted out before used extensively.
What exactly is meant by videoconferencing?
Videoconferencing is an extension of something that has been around for some time, which is teleconferencing. Teleconferencing, as the name suggests, uses telephones as the main means by which people at different locations can meet and communicate. Videoconferencing software, like WhatsApp or Zoom, enables people to see each other as well as hear each other speak. This allows far more effective communication for things like business meetings, interviews, financial updates, business deal negotiations and merger and acquisition discussions.
There are now quite a number of videoconferencing platforms available, although Zoom seems to have become one of the most popular options since the pandemic struck, with a 530% uptake since March this year. It’s used by educators, lawmakers, for international conferences, as well as by businesses.
Legal issues when videoconferencing
The main legal issue when videoconferencing is ensuring privacy. If the virtual meeting involves sensitive information, which to be honest, most do, it may be hard to be absolutely sure that your meeting is only accessible to those who the meeting was set up for. Videoconferencing software can be downloaded by anyone and used on a cell phone, tablet, laptop or desk computer. This is part of its value as a videoconferencing tool. The problem is guaranteeing that a specifically programmed meeting is only used by selected participants and that these selected participants don’t inadvertently ‘let in’ uninvited hostile ‘guests’ without realizing it.
Zoom seems to have attracted a lot of attention this year, mainly because of breaches of security. This may be because it has been the most popular videoconferencing app to be used and similar issues may have arisen with other apps if they had been used to the same extent. There have also been allegations that Zoom developers had been slow to incorporate security features like end-to-end encryption and the use of passwords. In the early part of the pandemic, when videoconferencing using Zoom boomed, there were sufficient security breaches to justify the Massachusetts Attorney General and the FBI both putting out warnings about Zoom users being careful about its use.
A phenomenon known as zoom-bombing was reported by schools using the app for online lessons and even church groups having online prayer and bible classes. Uninvited users were reported being able to access the sessions and hurl obscenities or display pornographic or other offensive material.
The lesson for businesses couldn’t be clearer. Video conferencing has serious potential risks from a legal standpoint. If you organize a videoconference, do you have the know-how to prevent intruders? They don’t even have to show their presence but can quietly listen in without you knowing it.
The consequences of a serious privacy breach could be anything from a deal that could have been clinched being cancelled; litigation by clients because of details thought to have been private revealed, deliberate sabotage by a business competitor, illegal financial gain or just mischievous trolling.
Precautions for businesses using videoconferencing software
Massachusetts A-G, Maura Healey, and the Boston FBI Area of Responsibility have both issued guidelines for users of videoconferencing software to ensure that there are fewer security breaches. These are summed up below:
- Don’t post a link to the online meeting on a social media site. Inform intended participants directly by the most secure means. Unless there are more security precautions taken, anyone who has access to the link may be able to participate, even if this is as a silent participant, in the meeting.
- Use a password or PIN for access to the session. Zoom and other web-conferencing apps have this facility (Zoom added password protection in January this year). Note that if highly sensitive information is to be discussed, password protection may not be sufficient as it can apparently be easily hacked.
- Use a ‘waiting room.’ This is a feature of Zoom where participants ‘enter’ while their credentials are checked before they have full access to the session.
- Make use of end-to-end encryption for particularly sensitive discussions or meetings. This is usually an option for Zoom which comes at a higher price, but if the worst happens because your business hasn’t opted for tighter security, then the legal ramifications could be more expensive than purchasing a more secure app.
The coffee shop test
Don’t assume that your videoconferencing session or business meeting is secure. If you are not sure just how important it is to use security precautions, imagine you are having your meeting in a coffee shop. Would you have to whisper when discussing your business? If you do, then you need to make your videoconferencing session more secure as your online whispers might just be picked up by an invisible, unwanted guest.
Contact The Law Offices of Richard Mucci for a free consultation to discuss any legal topic.