UW Privacy Office

Privacy Best Practices for Online Conferencing

Last updated on August 27, 2023

Use UW Provided Technologies

Individuals at the UW should use recording and online conferencing technologies like Panopto and Zoom, that are provided by UW-IT and have appropriate agreements in place for protecting personal data.

See IT Connect for more information about UW-IT provided services that are permitted for use with FERPA or HIPAA protected information.

Maintain Consistent In-Person and Remote Practices

When engaging in remote learning or business activities, ensure that in-person and remote practices are consistent. Specifically, individuals and departments/units should not record any activities while remote if those same activities would not be recorded while in-person.

For example, if an exam would not be recorded when administered in-person and the instructor’s syllabus did not communicate at the start of the quarter that the exam(s) would be recorded, then instructors may not record students when they sit for an exam remotely. However, if instructors would ordinarily observe the behavior of students taking exams in-person, students may be asked to switch on the video feature in an online conferencing solution provided they are not recorded. At the beginning of the exam, the instructor should state that individuals are not permitted to record the exam.

If an in-person exam would have ordinarily included a recorded component (ex. a recorded oral presentation, dance or music performance, etc.) and instructor’s syllabus communicated at the start of the quarter that the exam(s) would be recorded, then recording students while remote is permissible. However, instructors must retain the recording under the same retention schedule as they would have retained an in-person recording, and the recording would become part of the student’s educational record.

Create Transparency

In real time:

Before a recording or online conferencing session begins, organizers should inform anyone who will appear on-screen and/or be heard of:

  • The intended subject matter including any sensitive discussion topics;
  • The anticipated audience (ex. staff in a UW department, classmates in a lecture, etc.);
  • The types of anticipated interactions (ex. classroom discussions involving students, etc.), if any;
  • Whether the organizer will record individuals who appear on-screen and/or are audible;
  • Whether the invitees are permitted to record the session and/or individuals who appear on-screen and/or are audible;
  • How recordings will be used (ex. on-demand videos of an instructor’s past lectures, etc.), where the recording will be available (ex. only through Canvas in connection with a specific course), and the duration it will be available for viewing (ex. until the end of the course term);
  • Whether any third-parties beyond the anticipated audience (ex. the recording or online conferencing provider, etc.) will have access to, record, or otherwise retain any content; and
  • Other relevant details that could influence an individual’s decision to appear on-screen and/or be heard.

In a syllabus:

Include the following recommended language in your course syllabus when class sessions will be recorded:

“This course may be recorded by the presenter. The recording will capture the presenter’s audio, video, and computer screen. Student audio and video will be recorded if they share their computer audio and video during the recorded session. The recordings will only be accessible to students enrolled in the course to review materials. These recordings will not be shared with or accessible to the public.

The University provided Zoom and Panopto services have FERPA-compliant agreements in place to help protect security and privacy. Students who do not wish to be recorded in Zoom should:

  • Choose a Zoom display name that does not include any personal identifying information like their name or UW Net ID; and
  • Not share their computer audio or video during their Zoom sessions.”

Use Real-Time and Recording Features Appropriately

The use of specific features (ex. real-time audio, real-time video, and recording) in the context of technologies that support remote interaction may or may not be appropriate depending on:

  • the purpose and/or environment; and
  • whether users are organizers or invitees (ex. instructors that organize a remote exam for students or staff that organize a remote meeting for others to attend).

The UW Privacy Office is consulting with the UW Division of the Attorney General’s Office to evaluate the legal issues related to recording one on one conversations and group activities, instruction, or events. For instance, the UW must be mindful of laws that may relate to recordings (ex. Washington’s two-party consent requirements for private conversations). As we are working on broader guidance the below table is a best practice.

Appropriate Use of Real-Time and Recording Features

Real-time Audio of Organizer Real-time Audio of Invitees Real-time Video of Organizer Real-time Video of Invitees Recording by Organizer Recording by Invitees
Classroom Instruction (ex. Lectures and Presentations) Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes1 Yes1
Classroom Exams Yes No Yes Yes No2 No2
1-on-1 Meetings or Conversations Yes Yes Yes Yes No No
Staff Meetings Yes Yes Yes Yes No No

1 Recordings that are personally identifiable to students (e.g., have a student’s image or audio question) are educational records and subject to FERPA protections. Access to such recordings may need to be limited to the instructor and students who are enrolled in the specific class.

2 If an in-person exam would have ordinarily included a recorded component (ex. a recorded oral presentation, dance or music performance, etc.), recording students while remote is permissible.

Use Live Streaming Appropriately

See Privacy Best Practices for Live Streaming

Be Mindful About Available Technical Resources

Organizers may need to support their invitees with technical resources or make adjustments if remote engagement is not possible.

Instructors must be mindful of student equity when requiring the use of any technologies for remote exams. Instructors may need to (a) refer students who are residing locally and whose health and personal circumstances permit visiting campus to the Student Tech Loan Program for access to devices that meet the technical requirements for an exam and (b) otherwise make adjustments for students who do not have access to appropriate devices.

Protect Your Own and Other Individuals’ Privacy

If you are in an online conferencing session with real-time audio, real-time video and/or recording, consider the best practices below for protecting your own privacy and the privacy of those around you.

  • Find a private space with a neutral background that does not include any identifying or sensitive information about yourself or other individuals;
  • Utilize any features offered by a recording or online conferencing solution to blur your background or replace your actual background with a static image (ex. a virtual background available through Zoom);
  • Mute your device and/or switch off your camera if there is no added value or expectation from your organizer or other invitees to appear on-screen or be heard;
  • Make sure others in your surroundings do not appear on-screen and cannot be heard; and
  • Follow the guidance that appears above for the appropriate use of real-time and recording features.

Additional Resources

UW IT Connect: Protect your Zoom meeting space and class sessions

U.S. Department of Education: FAQs on Photos and Videos under FERPA

Version: August 5, 2021 (“In a syllabus” section modified)
Previous Version: March 26, 2020