Everyone is Zoom-ing nowadays—unless you prefer one of the solid alternatives to the can’t-get-enough-of-those-virtual-backgrounds meeting solution. And while you’ve probably heard a bit about how a Zoom meeting host can tell if the Zoom window isn’t focused on your computer when they’re screen sharing, there’s one more “feature” related to Zoom and privacy you should probably understand before your next virtual work meeting.
Zoom offers the ability for any participant to save the public chat of any meeting they’re in. It’s super useful if there are things you need to capture from the text chat—like any notes or ideas people were tossing out while someone else was speaking.
There’s one catch, though: If you save the chat locally, Zoom is also going to save any private chats you had with anyone else in the meeting. And if you blindly copy and paste that chat log into, say, an email or a shared server, everyone is going to be able to read about how you think your boss is a moron or that the speaker was a snooze (assuming you typed that).
FYI: if you're having a committee meeting via Zoom and you use the chat function to privately write to someone, your colleagues may not see it in real time, but it shows up when the chat is downloaded and put in the minutes folder…
— Is there an end to Zoom (@HJHaldanePhD) March 29, 2020
This isn’t quite as dire as it sounds: If you save the chat from your meeting, Zoom only saves the private chats that you were involved in, not the private chats anyone else was having during the meeting. Quirkier still, this universal save only happens when you save chats locally (or enable automatic saving of chats in Zoom’s settings). If you use Zoom’s cloud-recording features and enable the option to save the chat via those, as detailed in Zoom’s support document, Zoom only saves, “chats that were sent to everyone and messages sent while you were cloud recording.”
So, as I understand it, Zoom will still save private chats you were involved in, but only while cloud recording was enabled. A silver lining, right?
This almost falls into the “this is common sense, right?” bucket, but here goes: If you’re in a videoconference, or a Slack, or whatever, pretend that anything you send might to be seen by someone, else even if you think it is private.
In the case of Zoom, that means you’d best not snark with anyone who dumps the call’s chat and goes through it later—duh. But you also might not want to spill the tea at all, because you never know if, or when, that log file might innocently appear. Keep those “[boss name] sure is an idiot” comments to a separate platform entirely if you must; don’t tempt fate by sending them as a private message that might get logged if the recipient accidentally saves what they think is the public chat and only the public chat. Surprise! It’s more.