Zooming marvellous?: Managing data protection and privacy in the video communications world

Zooming marvellous?: Managing data protection and privacy in the video communications world

Video calls have doubled since lockdown started, so how does that affect data protection and privacy?

Do you remember the days when you used to dash to the office, grab a coffee then sit around a big meeting table with your colleagues munching the office biscuits? Happy days perhaps, but the COVID crisis has now made that ‘so last year’.

According to a recent report by @Ofcom, the proportion of UK online adults making video calls has doubled since lockdown started, with more than seven in ten doing so at least weekly. We are all familiar with the dramatic increase in uptake as the pandemic has inevitably accelerated our use of online services to communicate with colleagues, friends and family.

At the start of Autumn, universities cautiously attempted to get students back to blended learning, combining traditional lectures with online methods. However, the newspapers are full of stories about students confined to cramped quarters because of the voracious pace at which the virus is spreading through the sector. Today, the University of Sheffield has reported 474 students and five staff members testing positive. For these unfortunate victims it seems that video conferencing will not just be the way that they are required to study, but the only safe way that they can communicate with their loved ones too.

Video conferencing tools are here to stay. They are an essential component of our communications arsenal to meet the pandemic-posed challenges of social distancing. However, from a privacy and data protection perspective they can have some serious consequences if they are not correctly implemented and managed. There have been countless funny stories about ‘Zoom bombing’ but it can have serious ramifications. No one wants uninvited attendees viewing their business meeting, or worse, sharing pornographic images and content because it can cause severe embarrassment and loss of reputation to individuals and businesses alike.

Availability is another consideration. When the American schools went back after the summer break, the Zoom platform buckled under the strain and led to thousands of users being unable to connect to its platform. In this instance, they managed to get back up and running in only a few hours, but it highlights the need to select a video conferencing solution that is fully fit for purpose. Due diligence should consider how well the platform can scale, how it protects and manages privacy and security and how, and where, it stores any data that is captured.

Any organisation planning to introduce (or continue to use) a video conferencing solution as a permanent part of its ongoing communications strategy must consider the following:

Most of us will be happy to wave goodbye to 2020. It has been the ‘lost year’ of disappointment with cancelled holidays, economic woes, postponed weddings, disrupted education, and the tragic loss of many lives across the world. However, imagine how much worse it would have been without being able to talk to our colleagues, friends, and family on our screens?

We are unlikely to be able to return to our ‘old normality’ in 2021 and have reaped many benefits as working from home has been assimilated into the mainstream way of corporate life. Video conferencing needs to be managed and monitored to ensure that our communications are both secure and private and relevant policy and procedures should be implemented and monitored to protect all concerned. Then we can wave everyone a ‘Happy, Safe and Secure New Year 2021’ by video!

Written & Published By: Claire Robinson DPO, CIPP/E, CIPM, ISO 27001 certified Consultant.

Tuesday 6th October 2020