Inviting the World to Your Virtual Meetings

Think back to your last board meeting—what did you discuss? Or how about the one-on-one counseling or financial services that you offer—what was discussed in those meetings? Now, consider this: would you want those conversations public?

Your organization may have moved some of its operations online by using virtual platforms. Online meeting sites like Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, and Skype have allowed you to continue those portions of your ministry critical to your mission. 

Did you record those meetings? You may have, to offer on-demand playback of a service or to preserve information discussed. But there's a downside: online meetings, and recording those meetings, carry unique risks. Does your ministry have liability and cyber insurance coverages that help to address these risks? 

The Upside…and the Downside

Most of us experienced a crash course in online meetings and gatherings in early 2020. The upside of virtual meeting platforms is that they allowed Christian ministries, schools, and colleges and universities to continue their services, classes, meetings, and networking. Your ministry may have experienced this challenging time as a positive exercise in innovation and creative problem-solving.

The downside came quickly: hackers interrupted get-togethers. Spotty internet connections made communications frustrating. And some sensitive, recorded meetings were made public.

The Washington Post reported1 that thousands of recorded online meetings were found and posted online. A free online search engine allowed people to poke around in free online storage space, like that which Amazon offers. The result was that thousands of recordings were uploaded to online places like YouTube and widely shared. Some videos were of children that could easily be identified.

Beyond the embarrassment of a private recording made public, recordings can also be used in discovery, litigation, and other court proceedings, too. If your ministry is sued, you may be required to turn over the recordings to the plaintiff’s attorney. 

If you plan to record virtual meetings or keep a recorded meeting private, remember these key points:

  • Treat all virtual meetings as if they are in-person meetings. Sitting at home in your pajamas may lend an air of casualness to an online meeting, but it’s important to remember to speak and behave professionally.  

  • Learn the laws in your state. Consent laws for recording conversations vary by state. State laws can range from needing one-party consent—meaning the person making the recording must be a part of the conversation or gain consent from one of the people involved—to needing consent from all parties before recording them. Some states specify what’s legal if you’re recording video/audio or simply audio. Also, learn what’s permissible in your state when it comes to recording minors. 

  • Be transparent. If you are recording a meeting, inform all participants at the start of the session that you are doing so—this tends to keep people on their best behavior. Explain why you are preserving the meeting. It’s a good practice to do this even if your state laws don’t require it. 

  • Put a lock on recordings. Many online platforms allow the organizer to lock out a participant’s ability to secretly record the meeting in the setup. Note, that this only prevents a participant from creating a recording through the platform. You cannot prevent someone from hitting record on their phone or using other capturing software. Ask participants not to record or share the meeting at the beginning of each virtual get-together.

  • Encrypt your meetings with private keys. Some online platforms will offer meeting organizers extra security. Organizers can send attendees a code to attend the meeting that is separate from the link used to access the meeting. This helps prevent hackers from breaking into your meeting.

  • Use unique names for stored recordings. Do not store your videos with the default name assigned to your recording by the online platform. Use an unpredictable name that makes the video harder to find by unauthorized users.

  • Take care where you store your recordings. Ensure your online storage/cloud service is encrypted and all file settings are set to private. Online storage services, like Dropbox or Google Drive, use their own language, so look to turn off or disable file settings that say public, shared, or shareable. In addition to a unique recording name, a strong password for your cloud account adds an additional layer of security. 

Your ministry may have found innovative ways to reach people, to hold meetings, organize, and collaborate. Virtual safety helps protect your ministry and its participants during online meetings. It’s as important to both your ministry and participants as the physical safety measures you take when people are on your premises. 

1 Harwell, Drew. ”Thousands of Zoom video calls left exposed on open Web.” The Washington Post, 3 April 2020. https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2020/04/03/thousands-zoom-video-calls-left-exposed-open-web.

Updated November 23, 2020

The information provided in this article is intended to be helpful, but it does not constitute legal advice and is not a substitute for the advice from a licensed attorney in your area. We strongly encourage you to regularly consult with a local attorney as part of your risk management program.