How to Keep Your Zoom Chats Private and Secure

Another step you can take is to lock a meeting once you’re sure that everyone who needs to join has joined. From the desktop app, click Manage Participants, More, and then Lock Meeting. Just make doubly sure that you weren’t expecting someone who hasn’t yet arrived, as they won’t be able to get in.

Add all of these measures up together and you can be very confident that your next Zoom meeting isn’t about to get rudely interrupted. Be careful not to get complacent though, particularly when it comes to limiting the exposure of the meeting IDs and the passwords that you’re using for your video calls.

Stay Private

So you’re safe and protected from outsiders; all that’s left is an awareness of what your boss can peek at while you’re using Zoom as a meeting participant. Meeting hosts have a lot of privileges and tools at their disposal, which you should know about going in.

Zoom had an attention-tracking feature, for instance, that told hosts if participants clicked away from the Zoom app for more than 30 seconds. After a public backlash, Zoom deactivated the feature last week.

Also remember that hosts can record audio and video from meetings in full, as well as keep a record of public chats. What’s more, if you save the chat log for yourself, it will also include private chats you’ve been involved in, so be very careful about sharing that file with anyone else. Don’t just post it in the group chat for everyone to read. If a host chooses to enable this setting, Zoom will notify you and give you a chance to opt out.

There’s not a lot you can do about these features, which are designed to make it easier to create logs for people to look back on later, but it’s worth knowing about them. A simple rule of thumb: If there’s a communication you don’t want anyone else to know about, keep it off Zoom.

Try an Alternative

If you’re not happy with Zoom, then you’ve got plenty of other options to turn to. For example, Google Duo: it recently updated the maximum video chat group size from 8 to 12, it’s available on mobile devices and the web, and video and audio calls are end-to-end encrypted (not even Google can peek at the data).

For those of you with colleagues, family, and friends who are all on Apple devices, FaceTime is an option. Group video chats of up to 32 people are supported, end-to-end encryption is turned on by default, and the apps are simple to use across iOS, iPadOS, and macOS. The downside is, of course, that no one on Windows or Android can join in.

Webex from Cisco is another group video calling tool that supports end-to-end encryption: it’s a little business-focused, but you do get support for video calls of up to 100 people, and a lot of the same features that Zoom brings to the table. The free tier is quite generous at the moment, though we’ll have to wait and see if it remains so after the current global pandemic has passed.

Like Webex, GoToMeeting has been in the virtual meeting business a long time, and includes end-to-end encryption as standard. Unlike Webex, there are no free plans, so you or your company will have to pay $12 a month and up for video calls with up to 150 different people. There’s also a 14-day free trial.

If you can live without full end-to-end encryption—so you’re essentially putting your trust in the software developer not to gather any more data than it needs to—then programs such as Skype (up to 50 people on a video call), Slack (up to 15 people on a video call with a paid plan), and Facebook Messenger (up to 50 people on a video call) are all options as well.

CORRECTION 4/5 12:00 PM ET: This story previously stated that Zoom hosts could use an attention-tracking feature that the company had disabled last week.


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