Watch Out — Zoom Now Tells Your Boss If You Aren’t Paying Attention

Zoom Now Tells Your Boss If You Aren’t Paying Attention

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AnnaMarie Houlis4.87k
Journalist & travel blogger

The COVID-19 pandemic sent countless employees home to work from their laptops in the safer confines of their living rooms. Because of this, teleconferencing programs like Zoom, Microsoft and Google are witnessing a lot more activity as companies try to keep up communication and maintain some semblance of normalcy.

Zoom CFO Kelly Steckelberg recently told Yahoo Finance, “At the end of January, if you took the run rate of our minutes usage at that point, we were on a run rate of a hundred billion annual meeting minutes, and that is up pretty significantly since then.”

Even after months of using them, there can be a lot to learn about these softwares. If you're using Zoom, you will want to be aware that it will indeed notify your boss if you're not paying attention.

Zoom is offering a feature called "attendee attention tracking," which can only be disabled by the chat administrator. 

How does it track your attention? Well, it will alert your boss if you have clicked away from the active Zoom window for more than half a minute.

Basically, the host of your Zoom session will be able to see a clock indicator in the participant panel of a meeting or webinar that appears if participants do not have Zoom Desktop Client or Mobile App in focus (i.e. open and active) for more than 30 seconds. 

It's important to note that attendee attention tracking doesn't use any audio or video tracking; rather, it only tracks attention while someone is sharing a screen, according to the company site.

Zoom promoted the feature for teachers to keep an eye on their students.

"Cool feature alert!" the company wrote in a blog post. "Attendee Attention Tracking in Zoom can help you monitor your students’ attention to your shared presentation. Whether it’s a video, a powerpoint or your desktop, if Zoom is not the app in focus on a student’s computer you will see a clock indicator next to their name in the Participant box. (Looks like nobody’s paying attention in this meeting!)"
In the blog post, the company also explains how teachers — like all Zoom hosts — can view reports to track attendees' attention (or lack thereof) over time.

Sure, there are ways around this. 

You can always have Zoom up and active on one device, and online shop or Netflix on your other device (no, we don't recommend this!). But you should also be conscious of the information that Zoom can collect while it's active.

Zoom's privacy policy, like many companies' privacy policies, indicates that it can gather your personal data. This includes your name, contact information, details about your job and employer, your payment information, your social media profiles, your device/network/internet connection and IP address(es), as well as anything you upload, provide or create while using the service. 

"Whether you have Zoom account or not, we may collect personal data from or about you when you use or otherwise interact with our products," the privacy policy states. "We collect this data to provide you with the best experience with our products."
So just be aware that, when you're using Zoom to work from home alone, you're not necessarily actually alone. Zoom is keeping tabs on you so your employer can, too. With that said, be conscious of your activity while using Zoom, treat your WFH meetings like you would in-person meetings and be present and engaged like the professional you are in the office.
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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.