OPC Provides Privacy Tips for Using Videoconferencing Services
May 2020 Charity & NFP Law Update
Published on May 28, 2020

By Esther Shainblum


In light of the surge of Canadians using videoconferencing services to maintain social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (“OPC”) published a blog post on May 1, 2020 providing privacy tips to consider while using videoconferencing services. The OPC warns that videoconferencing services “present personal and collective challenges for protecting privacy online,” particularly as one person’s choices may affect the privacy of everyone on the video call.
To safeguard all participants’ privacy, the OPC suggests that anybody using videoconferencing services should:
  1. Follow the news about videoconferencing to be aware of the various privacy and security vulnerabilities that certain videoconferencing services face;
  2. Review the privacy policies and terms of use of the videoconferencing service;
  3. Use a unique password for videoconferencing service accounts, and avoid using an existing social media account to sign in to a new service;
  4. Ensure that meetings are private or accessed only by invited participants where possible, including not posting video conference details publicly, and disabling features such as “join before host”, screen sharing, or file transfers where the meeting is public in order to prevent unwanted activities, such as “Zoombombing” and gate crashing;
  5. Protect video conferencing calls with a password, if possible, especially if anybody intends to discuss sensitive personal information such as health information. Each call should have its own password to prevent an unwanted participant from joining;
  6. Refrain from disclosing personal information where unnecessary, or disable call and video-recording features if personal or private information is to be discussed;
  7. Be conscious of where participants sit during the call, as items in the background can reveal personal information and reflective objects may reveal people who do not want to be in the video;
  8. Be aware of others in the vicinity who may be able to overhear the call, and wear headphones or find an isolated spot if necessary;
  9. Review the permissions and maintain an up-to-date version of any videoconferencing apps installed on phones, tablets, and computers;
  10. Open a new window with no other browser tabs if a web browser is used for call, and close other applications to prevent notification pop-ups, such as new email alerts, from being inadvertently shown to other participants; and
  11. Turn off smart speakers and personal home assistants to prevent the call from accidentally being recorded by the assistant.
With the current widespread use of videoconferencing services, charities and not-for-profits should be aware of the potential privacy risks involved with using these services, particularly where private information is discussed. Precautions, such as those outlined by the OPC, can and should be taken to best protect private information held by a charity or not-for-profit, as well as the privacy of its employees who participate in videoconferencing calls.


Read the May 2020 Charity & NFP Law Update