Does Working From Home & Video Conference Invade Your Privacy?

November 3, 2020

When California’s Governor Newsom put state residents on a stay-at-home order, no one knew that it would last more than a few weeks or even months. Half a year later, the pandemic is not slowing down. The state had more than 30,000 new cases during the third week of October. Since the pandemic started, there have been more than 898,000 cases and 17,300 deaths.

While businesses struggle to stay afloat during this extensive pandemic, many have their staff working from home. Some companies have decided that workers will not return to offices. They’re switching to a work-from-home structure for good.

Workers are staying connected through platforms like Google Meet, Skype, and Zoom. It’s led to a question about privacy laws. If you’re working from home and engaging in regular video conferences, is it an invasion of your privacy? Are you putting another’s privacy at risk? What can turn a simple video conference or work-from-home chat into a privacy concern?

Monitoring Your Daily Activities

Here’s another way employee’s privacy rights are being impacted. To ensure workers are putting in a full day, employees are monitoring their employee’s actions. To do this, companies are asking workers to install software like Hubstaff and Teramind that watches what employees are doing from their home offices. It can track emails, log keystrokes, and take screen captures.

While the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 states it’s illegal to intercept and use electronic communications. However, the law doesn’t cover things like keystroke logging. It also makes exceptions for businesses monitoring employees. In California, this type of conduct is protected under the Two-Party Consent law.

Two-Party Consent Laws

The biggest concern regarding work-at-home video conferences occurs when the conference is recorded for those who could not attend. This may be a breach of Two-Party Consent laws. California Penal Code section 632 states that “a person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, uses an electronic amplifying or recording device to record a confidential communication… shall be punished by a fine not exceeding $2,500 per violation, or imprisonment of up to one year.”

For a company to record your video conference, everyone there must give consent for it to be recorded. If screenshots or photos are captured and shared, that poses another way Two-Party Consent is violated.

Employers have to give you the choice of joining a session that’s being recorded. If you don’t want to give consent, you have the choice to leave. What if you’re worried that leaving the video conference will put your job at risk? That’s an issue with some people. They don’t want to be in a recorded video for one reason or another. It might be a person who fled an abusive relationship and doesn’t want his or her image published online. In that case, it’s worth asking about being part of the conference without turning on the video camera and only using a microphone for input.

There’s another concern. Zoom is one of the most popular ways for businesses to host video conferences. Zoom fell victim to ‘Zoom-Bombing” where hackers got by the lack of criteria for passwords and attended Zoom meetings without permission. Companies have to use security measures like Zoom Meeting ID numbers and passwords to help boost security. Hosts should also take advantage of settings that lock the meeting room or barring people in the chat from sharing files.

Employment Contract Breaches

Check your employment contract carefully. Make sure you’re not doing things that put your privacy or your clients’ privacy at risk because you’re not following the terms in your contract.

There’s the chance you’re doing things that are a breach of the terms. For example, your work contract says you cannot discuss the names of clients with others. You’re at home now and sharing the home office with a roommate or family member. If they can’t leave the room while you have a video conference, they’re going to overhear private work information. That could violate your contract. You need to be proactive and ask your management team what you should do.

At work, you’re contracted to use an encrypted server for sending emails and messages. You may need to work behind a strong firewall. If you’re using your home computer for work, you might be in trouble if the security software isn’t the same level as security software at your work. It may be worth taking the time to ask if one of the IT department workers can come set up your home office to match the company’s expectations.

California Consumer Privacy Act

Your employer might be paying very close attention to your home office network because of the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA). The CCPA provides California residents with specific rights.

  • They have the right to know what information is being collected.
  • They have the right to opt-out of sharing that personal data.
  • They also have the right to know if you’re selling or disclosing it to others.

A company that has more than $25 million in gross revenues, earns more than 50% of its revenue selling consumer information, or buys/sells/receives personal information for at least 50,000 consumers/households must apply by those rules.

If your company meets any of those criteria, you have to abide by the rules outlined in this act. There’s one particular area to note. A Company must take measures to protect consumer data through safe practices and security procedures. Those who work from home may not have the same level of protection. If you’re working for a company that must take measures to keep information secure and private, you may be asked to put in measures to keep information safe.

Some of the steps workers may need to take include having a secure Wi-Fi network that’s updated and has a strong password. Restricting traffic, turning off WPS, and using the appropriate encryption setting is also important.

What do you do if you suspect your employer is jeopardizing your privacy? What if you were wrongly terminated for a privacy issue and you’re not certain the termination was justified? It’s time to talk to an attorney who specializes in employment issues. Shegerian Conniff works with you to go over the laws and how they apply in your situation. Stand up for your rights and schedule a risk-free consultation.