Dispute Resolution

As has been made clear by the government in recent weeks, individuals, where possible, should work from home. Whilst for some the advent of “flexible working” began prior to this, for the majority this style of working is completely novel. Numerous articles have been published recently suggesting tips to overcome the challenges remote working presents. A common theme amongst these has been the notion of “staying connected”.

In this regard, technology has come to the fore, with programmes such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom allowing virtual meetings to be conducted as if individuals were in the same room. There is no doubt that such services have enhanced the way we maintain those social connections whilst working remotely. Nevertheless, this new style of keeping in touch raises new legal questions and necessitates.

Who or what is listening –

Guidance published by the UK government towards the end of last year indicated that one in five UK households used smart speakers. Whilst for many these devices now form part of their daily routine, some consideration should be made to the way in which they operate. According to studies by researchers at Imperial College London, these devices can record conversations up to 19 times per day for intervals long enough to record sensitive audio from the environment.

Many conversations, especially those involving lawyers, will touch on sensitive information which should remain confidential. To avoid the risk of that information being recorded, if you have a smart speaker in the room in which you work from home or hold calls, turn it off during the working day.

Also think about the people you live with. Who can hear your conversations? Do you use the speaker on your laptop, or can you use a headset?

Choosing the right technology

There have been many stories in the last couple of weeks in relation to the security and privacy of several video conferencing and messaging platforms. Carry out appropriate diligence to ensure that the platform you are using is suitable for the information being shared. Avoid platforms that lead to sensitive or personal data being stored on an employee’s personal device.

Once you’ve chosen your platform, make sure you’re using it in a way that does not create unnecessary security risks. Use features like passwords to prevent “Zoombombing“. While everyone is keen to share photos of their videos on social media, be careful that in doing so you don’t disclose information such as meeting ID numbers of the user names of colleagues.

Can meetings be recorded?

With meetings often containing large amounts of information it may feel practical for these conversations to be recorded, especially given the ease at which this technology allows us to do so. However, what are the legal considerations?

Recording calls and meetings is likely to involve the collection of personal data. Has your organisation identified an appropriate legal basis and given participants notice of how their data will be used? A recent Brodies blog considers guidance published by the ICO on the wider data protection considerations brought about by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Separately, court proceedings may be conducted by telephone or video but recording of those proceedings is not permitted unless the court has given consent. See for example paragraph 24 of Court of Session Guidance Note for Practitioners dated 20 March 2020.

Conclusion

With work forces no longer finding themselves in one central location demanding the increased use of technology, it is perhaps more important than ever to ensure work policies and procedures are up to date.

Blair Munro