What if you don't want to be recorded? Privacy, equity and Zoom lecture recording

The constant use of Zoom and the recording Zoom lectures have prompted questions of privacy, especially due to concerns over privacy and intellectual property from previous conversations about lecture recording.

UBC guidelines outline different ways students can protect their privacy while using Zoom. Students can turn their cameras off, login with just their first name or a nickname and turn off their microphone.

However, according to AMS VP Academic and University Affairs Georgia Yee, there is an inconsistency among different faculties and instructors when it comes to how available these options are to students. For example, the Sauder School of Business puts emphasis on professionalism and tends to ask students to keep their cameras on, while the Faculty of Arts tends to adopt a more relaxed approach, said Yee.

Privacy and equity intersect, with asynchronous options and closed captioning making lectures more accessible.

“[But] if you are, by proxy inviting people into your home by having your camera on during Zoom sessions … it raises a lot of issues, especially for female-identifying students and students with young children or dependents ... or students from low income households as well,” Yee said.

Simon Bates, UBC’s associate provost, teaching and learning, said he agrees with Yee that instructors should not be compelling students to have their cameras on during lectures.

He noted that since courses no longer administered in an institutional setting such as a lecture hall but in people’s homes, accessibility and connectivity concerns are more prominent.

“... There is going to be a larger number of more diverse accessibility .... challenges with being able to participate and engage in the learning and we just have to be as flexible and accommodating as possible,” Bates said.

“The right thing to do is individual accommodations for those students. But it does add considerable workload to faculty to be able to accommodate those.”

Bates mentioned instructors might want to ask their students to turn their cameras on to recreate a sense of connection in the classroom. However, he thinks privacy concerns, especially the sort of ones mentioned by Yee above, are exactly why instructors should not enforce students to turn their cameras on.

As for when students could be asked to turn their cameras on, Bates said there are only a few circumstances, including confirmation of identity during examinations or presentations which are part of assessed classwork.

Zoom is Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) compliant, and meets data residency requirements in Canada, Bates said. Instructors don’t record on their own devices, only on cloud recording, and recordings are only accessible to registered students within a course.

If students don’t want to be recorded or their instructor isn’t complying with UBC guidelines, Bates recommends students connect with their instructors and discuss their concerns.

“...I think the vast majority of cases people are going to be accommodating and compassionate about the circumstances that students find themselves in,” he said.

Yee added that students can contact the Ombudsperson if they feel like they are treated unfairly.

Bates said that the number one principle the university underlines for instructors “is trying to approach design and delivery issues within your courses with a degree of care and compassion for everyone involved.”

Yee hopes a more human and compassionate approach that looks at students’ individual circumstances can be adopted as UBC continues with online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic.