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Is it legal to record virtual meetings and video conferences?

Yes, it is legal to record virtual meetings. But, for ethical or legal reasons, remote workers shouldn't record them all. Learn when recording is and isn't appropriate.

The rise of remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic contributed to a proportional rise in virtual meetings and video conferencing platforms.

However, that rise forced organizations to consider the legal implications of digital recordings. Given the different federal and state regulations related to wiretapping and recording, IT leaders must define stricter policies around how remote workers handle video conference recordings. IT teams need a middle ground where remote workers can record virtual meetings without putting the organization at risk of legal or ethical trouble.

Benefits of recording virtual meetings

If teams can record virtual meetings, remote workers can get easy access to team brainstorming sessions, training sessions or other critical information shared within a virtual meeting.

1. Recordings capture team interactions and brainstorming sessions

In virtual meetings, teams can interact with a digital whiteboard to visualize ideas. These meetings can increase productivity and enable remote workers to draw visual shapes, such as workflows and other visual cues that workers may struggle to express in written notes. If teams record these sessions, they can revisit and understand the recording more easily than text notes that attempt to translate the drawings.

2. Recordings save training sessions for future use

Remote workers face various distractions throughout the workday, so virtual training sessions don't always keep attendees' full attention. If the presenter records the session -- whether it's on a new application, system or company process -- the attendees can review the session later, if necessary. Organizations can also reuse recorded sessions for future purposes, like training future employees on a process.

3. Recordings retain necessary information for future use

For client-facing virtual meetings where remote workers collect important information, recordings ensure all participants can revisit the discussion later and confirm what was discussed. Whether the session explores software requirements, a client's desired product features or a contract negotiation that requires all details compiled in a document, all parties involved would benefit from recording the session for future use or review.

ways to maintain video conferencing security
While it is legal to record virtual meetings, organizations must prioritize and ensure security for these meetings and video conferences.

Reasons not to record a virtual meeting

While it is legal to record virtual meetings in general, organizations should not record all meetings for ethical or certain legal reasons.

1. Ethical reasons

As more people started to work remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, manager and employee interactions turned into virtual meetings, as did performance reviews and other HR-related matters. Employees may feel uncomfortable if their managers want to record discussions about specific issues or performance challenges. Managers may need to debate the ethical ramifications of recording those virtual meetings.

Organizations also may opt to not record HR complaints, as some employees may refuse to come forward with issues if the HR team records the virtual meeting.

2. Certain legal reasons

Organizations may face negative consequences regarding whether it's legal to record virtual meetings in certain states and what it means to have consent from one or all parties to proceed.

While it is legal to record virtual meetings in general, organizations should not record all meetings for ethical or certain legal reasons.

Wiretapping and recording laws are meant to protect individuals within the U.S. against other parties recording them on a call without their consent. While federal law requires one-party consent, in Florida, Maryland, Montana, Nevada, California and some other states, citizens must receive consent from all parties prior to recording a phone call or video conference. IT teams may struggle to ensure end users understand each state has its own rules or memorize which states enable one-party, two-party or all-party consent.

The repercussions of noncompliance depend on the state or individual. For example, if a person determines someone from Company A recorded them without their consent in an all-party consent state, that individual can sue Company A for damages in a civil lawsuit. While the judge can throw out the lawsuit, this is still considered a failure of the organization to respect an individual's right to privacy.

The fines or damages are not set, but employees can sue if they discover conversations were recorded without their consent and they determine the suits have merit -- especially if the recordings include confidential or private information.

Many video conferencing services like Zoom, Cisco Webex and Microsoft Teams enable IT teams to configure audible announcements when someone begins to record, as well as indicators within the application to highlight the meeting is being recorded.

How long should organizations keep a video recording?

Like other assets that organizations maintain in storage systems, digital files and video recordings require protection. Data retention and backup policies apply to virtual meeting data like any other digital files. While retention policies differ between companies and industries, IT teams must apply the same policies for existing data to video recordings.

However, in some scenarios, video recordings require additional considerations. For example, some telehealth services include virtual meetings between a patient and a healthcare professional, which the healthcare professional may record. As these interactions contain patient health information and personally identifiable data, HIPAA rules apply to these recordings the same way as other health records and the data requires encryption at rest. If users choose to share recordings, they must require passwords and only send recordings to other authorized users. Organizations must also keep recordings for seven or, in some cases, 10 years.

For law firms, recording attorney and client interactions is common. A law firm may choose to retain these records to protect itself from potential client lawsuits. The state bars recommend law firms keep recordings for at least five years, but some states extend that to six years.

Whether a meeting is held to celebrate a project's success or to discuss a department's achievements or failures, recording virtual meetings creates a permanent snapshot of the discussion that all attendees can review afterward. But the record button has implications from both legal and ethical perspectives. Application use policies and appropriate record retention policies can help organizations ensure compliance and appropriate use of recordings.

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