Tips to Make Your Zoom Gatherings More Private

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Chances are you’ve received an invitation in recent days to join a virtual gathering using the Zoom platform. And as millions of people have started working, socializing and exercising on a platform originally intended as an enterprise tool, lots of questions about Zoom’s privacy and security have surfaced. Researchers have recently discovered privacy issues and deficiencies, but Zoom has been very responsive and worked to quickly resolve them.

While some privacy concerns relate to platform vulnerabilitiesothers are related to host and participant settings, so here are steps you can take – both as a host and a participant – to help protect your own privacy as well as that of others.

Tips for hosting a Zoom gathering (the first seven options below work with free accounts):

Use your account with the latest version of Zoom

Sign-in and update to the latest version of the Zoom client or app. This will give you access to the meetings that are available to invited participants and ensure that your system has up-to-date security patches. You can also use a browser version of Zoom, but it does not include all the current features so some of these tips may not work.

Use password protection

You can make your meetings password protected to prevent people from guessing your room ID and joining.

Keep your Personal Meeting ID private

Don’t use your Personal Meeting ID – especially for events you’re broadly publicizing. That will stop people from trying to enter your personal room at other times. Instead, generate a unique meeting ID by scheduling the meeting. Here’s how:

How to generate a random Zoom meeting ID

“Lock out” uninvited participants

Don’t share Zoom meeting invites or Meeting IDs with anyone you don’t want to join. For added security, if you don’t have a password set for your event, use the “Lock Meeting” feature under the participants pop-up-box so no one else can join once you have the participants you expect. Although if someone has to drop for some reason – or if their internet cuts out – they won’t be able to re-join.

Utilize the “mute all” feature

Using the “manage participants” function, you can mute all participants. You should not unmute them again without telling them that’s what you’re doing.

Stop unwanted content from being shared

You can stop participants from sharing their screen, or if necessary, stop their video. This is helpful if you’re inviting lots of people you don’t necessarily know so that someone can’t maliciously share content – a practice now known as “zoombombing.” You should know that once a video is “stopped,” a host does not have the ability to restart the video – that is, a host can revoke permission for a participant to share video, but cannot start video for another person – they can simply send a prompt requesting them to use video.

Tips to stop "Zoombombing"

Respect chat privacy

Decide ahead of time if you will save the chat or record the video of the meeting and make sure all participants have agreed and know how you plan to use that information. Recording and saving chats may have legal implications so make sure you’ve checked into that before enabling these options.

For paid accounts, here are some additional options:

Control when a participant is able to join the meeting

Use the Waiting Room feature to decide who is allowed into your room, and when.

Require user authentication

Only allow signed-in users to join, and require them to use the email address they were invited on.

Tips for participating in a Zoom gathering:

Keep video and microphone off by default when joining a meeting

To avoid being caught unaware, or accidentally allowing other participants to overhear a family member who might be talking when you first join a Zoom meeting, turn off the camera and microphone by default. Go to settings and select video then check “Turn off my video when joining a meeting.” Do the same under audio for “Mute microphone when joining a meeting.” That way you can unmute your video and microphone when you’re ready to participate in the meeting.

Turn off your video and camera when joining a meeting to protect your privacy

Stay muted when you’re not speaking

You can choose when to turn on your video, depending on the culture of the call, and stay muted when not speaking (pro-tip: you can hit the space-bar to temporarily unmute!) Note that if you mute yourself, you are the only one who can unmute, but if a host mutes you, they can also turn your microphone back on.

Use a virtual background

Set up a virtual background to keep your home space private. As Consumer Reports points out, screenshots or recordings from Zoom chats could exist long past your meeting, and there could be numerous reasons you wouldn’t want that glimpse into your home to live on in perpetuity. While this option may not be available on all systems, if it is, you should see three standard Zoom backgrounds. Click here for a Firefox-themed option you can use.

How to set up a virtual background

Be careful of what you type in chat

You should know that Zoom chats can be automatically saved and stored, or manually saved by your host. This could potentially include direct chats to another individual on the call. Separately, chats can also be saved along with a Zoom recording and could be visible to many if that recording is shared.

We encourage you to get informed about Zoom’s security and privacy features and read more about what we are doing to advocate for even stronger controls here — especially if you’re an account administrator or can turn off certain functions for an enterprise Zoom subscription.

Here at Mozilla we work to hold companies to account, to make privacy the default, and to ensure strong security standards. Stay tuned for more updates on how to maximize privacy and security when video conferencing.