by Yana A. St. Clair, Esq.
With the world up in turmoil, the future of privacy is looking grim.
It has been almost nine months since our world has been rocked by the pandemic, and as a result we have entered a completely different universe. Traveling became beyond challenging, and the imposed social distancing regulations banned nonessential face-to-face meetings, thus making normal interactions impossible.
Since the changes caused by the travel restrictions and stay-at-home orders of many local or state governments, we became participants in the new reality of virtual events that happen not at a physical location, but in the “cloud.”
To survive under these circumstances, like everyone else, the PAC World industry turned to the many virtual platforms that have emerged to meet the needs in this new world. While engaging in an event running on one of various platforms, such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, Bluejeans, and others, requires learning new skills to use them effectively, this is not the only issue the virtual participants may be facing.
This will be the first of a number of issues, hoping to introduce and assist all of us in how to manage the many subjects, mainly privacy, among others, which will become part of our work-related daily considerations.
As always, there are two sides to every story, and two points of view to consider. In the journey we are about to embark on, there are many potential legal threats and considerations facing the employer, and the super personal privacy concerns each employee must keep in mind.
Not surprisingly, we must once again return to our good old friend privacy, and as always, the fallback is what is our reasonable expectation of privacy.
There was a time when being within the confines of our own home was enough to solidify an expectation of privacy, and that was the law of the land. Even with regards to telephone conversation, being within the confines of an old school phone booth “insert mental image of a traditional red British telephone enclosure,” you know, the ones you can now see as a novelty in front of your favorite Pub, guaranteed you absolute privacy, or at least, the expectation thereof.
Sadly, or not, depending on your point of view, we live in a different world. A world where you can communicate with grandma across the globe and show her what the kids are up to from your living room. You can also conduct any personal, or professional meeting from your phone, from your favorite coffee shop, or, perhaps, a nude beach? While my last reference may seem absurd, however it’s not unreasonable, and it brings us to the main point of this introductory article: Watch your back, or front, because you have no idea who’s watching!!
When we leave the privacy of our home, we know that we are subjecting ourselves to the outside world and are usually more careful as to how we behave. Most of us expect that our homes are our safe heaven, which is not always true, especially when we are knowingly, and willingly connected to the internet. We need to know that the moment we enter a virtual event and agree to the virtual platform provider’s disclosures, we are automatically losing our privacy safeguards, thus become potentially liable for anything that may happen.
We will get into much more detail pertaining to these matters in our subsequent issues, but for the time being, we’ll leave you with a relevant story to keep in mind. To protect ourselves, we have to accept that any virtual event is very much a real interaction outside the four walls of our homes. We need to think about our environment and what can be seen by the other participants in the meeting or the event. As can be seen from the recent example of Jeffrey Toobin, a prominent writer and CNN’s Chief Legal Analyst, who was fired from The New Yorker in November after he accidentally exposed himself to colleagues from the New Yorker during a Zoom call in October. According to him, he thought that his microphone was muted, and his camera was OFF. But obviously that was not the case, and he should have known better.
And this is where we will leave this for now. He should have known better, and we should all know better. So, next time you join a meeting, or a friendly Zoom chat with friends for a birthday or Virtual wine tasting, make sure you’ve done your homework on how the platform you’re using works, and what you need to do to protect yourself, or you just might end up on YouTube, with more than you’d like the world to see…
Yana is an American attorney licensed to practice in all State and Federal courts of California. Yana holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science specializing in International Relations from UCLA, the Degree of Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School, and a Master of Business Administration Degree from Ashford University. Since the beginning of her undergraduate studies, Yana has been involved in various aspects of the field of Electrical Engineering, where she employs her business and legal knowledge to consulting and advising businesses and individuals on relevant topics of concern. Yana also serves as Editor for PACWorld magazine, having been with the publication since its inception. As an attorney, Yana specializes in criminal defense, where she devotes her talents and expertise to fighting for her clients’ rights and freedom.