Let’s face it: Zoom meetings are rarely as riveting as the host would like them to be.
If you’re anything like me, you’re getting a bad case of Zoom fatigue from all of the video conference calls, meetings, and classes you’ve had to attend.
Because of this, you might be tempted to engage in other activities during a Zoom meeting like checking your email or playing video games.
Then you panic when you notice the host is recording the session.
Can the Zoom host record my screen?
Does Zoom Record Your Screen Or Just The Meeting?
Zoom does not record your screen unless you share your screen with attendees during the session.
When conducting a meeting over Zoom, the host has two different recording options.
The first option is manual recording in which the host must click the record button from the application once the meeting starts.
The second method is to enable automatic recording.
When a session is set for automatic recording, Zoom begins capturing the meeting as soon as the session starts—unless the host is recording locally.
In this case, the recording won’t begin until the meeting host joins the session from a Zoom desktop application.
Local recording saves the video, audio, and transcript files directly to the host’s computer.
With cloud recording, Zoom saves the files to its servers for access from the Internet.
It’s important to differentiate between local and cloud because there are limitations and nuances with each method.
Note that cloud recording is unavailable to Basic (free) Zoom accounts.
Who Can Record A Zoom Session?
Only the meeting host can record Zoom calls unless he or she has granted access otherwise.
When creating a meeting you can specify co-hosts in the “Alternative Hosts” field under “Options.”
(This setting is hidden by default. You must click on the “Show” link to reveal the Alternative Hosts setting.)
In the field, type the email address of a fellow Zoom user to add a co-host.
Note: Only licensed users can add additional hosts to a meeting.
Basic accounts are limited to one host.
When using Cloud capture, only hosts and co-hosts can record the Zoom session.
If the session is set to automatic cloud recording, the capture will start as soon as the meeting begins.
Participants who wish to initiate recording (when cloud recording is set to manual) must first be elevated to co-host status.
Meeting attendees can record sessions locally, but only if the host gives the user permission to do so.
From within the meeting, the host can click on “Participants” and click “More” next to the user he or she wishes to give recording permission, then click on “Allow Record.”
The attendee will receive a notification of the shiny new permission but this does not automatically initiate a recording.
It just gives the user the right to record.
Also, it is important to note that since this works for local recording only, when an attendee records a session, Zoom saves the files to that user’s computer, which means only he or she has access to the files.
At any time during the meeting, the host can revoke a participant’s local recording privileges.
How Are Attendees Notified Of Recording?
Zoom notifies attendees the session is being recorded in three primary ways.
1. An Audible Message That Says, “Recording in Progress.”
Any type of Zoom account host can disable this audible alert except for users dialing in by phone only (not those who use the Android or iOS apps).
There’s a good reason for this.
Without this audible alert, phone-only users would have no way of knowing session recording was occurring.
2. Recording Consent Dialog Box
Whether recording is automatic or manual, users will be presented with a consent disclaimer with two options: “Got It” or “Leave Meeting.”
If recording is already in progress when joining, you will get the same prompt at the time you connect to the session.
Be aware, though, that Enterprise, API, Education, and Business account administrators can customize the consent notification or even disable it entirely for accounts belonging to their organization.
If your Zoom account is tied to your organization, you might not see the recording consent dialog at all.
Guest users on recorded sessions will always see this notification.
3. Red “Recording” Light Icon in Zoom Window
The last indication is a circular red icon in the top left corner of the screen next to the word “Recording.”
On mobile, you’ll see a similar icon, but with the abbreviated “REC” next to a red dot:
While admins can turn off other recording notifications, they cannot disable this indicator.
What Exactly Gets Recorded In Zoom?
Now that you know how you can tell if Zoom recording is enabled for a session, what exactly is Zoom recording?
The answer is simpler than you might think.
Zoom only records what is visible or audible during the meeting itself.
Hosts have many options when determining what is recorded during a session.
Be aware that any or all of this data can be captured.
You won’t be notified which specific features are enabled, just the generic recording notifications as outlined above.
Local recording has fewer options than cloud recording does.
Hosts can check a box to save chat messages, and they can save an auto-generated closed caption VTT file.
Private messages sent to the host can be saved, but only with the local setting.
Private chats cannot be saved to the cloud.
Regardless of the recording format, private chats between participants cannot be viewed or recorded by the host.
With cloud recording, Zoom provides more options.
The host can select any or all of the following options.
They can record the active speaker with a shared screen, gallery view with shared screen, or they can record the active speaker, gallery view, and shared screen separately.
For audio, cloud recording allows for two options: one audio file for all participants and separate audio files for each participant.
The latter option comes with a couple of caveats.
First, Zoom limits separate audio recordings to the first 200 attendees.
If you’re the 201st person to speak on a Zoom call, your audio feed won’t have its own file.
Second, all dial-in users’ audio will be merged into one file.
The separate audio files setting is important, because it allows hosts to isolate audio feeds from each user.
You might have thought Joe Loudmouth shouted over your salient (or sarcastic) point, but if separate audio feeds are turned on, it’s not too difficult for a host to go back and review what you said individually.
Saving chat messages is another recording capability.
Unlike local recording, cloud recordings only save public conversations from the meeting.
In other words, if all participants couldn’t see the message during the Zoom session, then it doesn’t get recorded to the cloud.
Other recorded data include participants’ names, audio transcripts, and poll results.
Does Zoom Record From Your Webcam?
Does Zoom record from your webcam?
Yes, if you have the video turned on.
Zoom captures anything and everything you share during a recorded session.
This includes your screen, video feed, audio feed, and even your public chats and private conversations with the host (with local recording).
Unless you explicitly share your screen, the host cannot capture what you’re doing on your computer.
That said, there are a couple of gotchas to be aware of.
If you have video on, it can be pretty obvious to hosts and fellow attendees if you’re doing something else during a Zoom meeting.
Just like a teacher can tell if a student is paying attention in class, if your eyes are moving back and forth over the screen or it’s obvious you’re moving your mouse, people can probably tell if you’re paying attention to the meeting or if you’re responding to email.
Your best bet for keeping your activity private is to disable video—assuming your boss or teacher will allow it.
To do so, click on the “Stop Video” in the lower-left corner of the desktop or mobile client.
In addition, make sure your microphone is muted or your clicking, typing, or worse will be obvious to everyone.
What About Zoom’s Attendee Attention Tracker?
Zoom introduced a feature called Attendee Attention Tracker early in 2018.
The attention tracking feature was aimed at teachers as a tool to ensure students were paying attention during lectures, but it could be implemented in other contexts as well.
(The company has removed the release announcement from their website, but you can still read the original blog post thanks to the people at the Wayback Machine.)
With the feature enabled, Zoom meeting hosts could identify users who had clicked away from the meeting window for more than thirty seconds while the session was in screen-sharing mode.
The Attendee Attention Tracker did not record the screens of any users, but the setting monitored usage and reported back to the host in the form of a clock icon next to the attendee’s name and profile picture.
In addition, Zoom would provide an attention report to hosts detailing the percentage of time each user was paying attention—i.e., had the meeting window open and in focus.
We use past tense to talk about the feature because it no longer exists.
In April of 2020, Zoom removed attention tracking from its platform.
As the company wrote on the website, “We have removed the attendee attention tracker feature as part of our commitment to the security and privacy of our customers.”
Although the feature likely held value in the educational context, the potential for abuse spurred Zoom to disable the setting.
Can Zoom Teachers See Your Screen?
Teachers and bosses have zero ability to see anything on your screen unless you share it with them using the green share button on the desktop client.
You can also share your screen using the mobile app on Android or iOS devices, but again, you must initiate the sharing session.
The host cannot view your screen without action on your part.
With a basic Zoom account, only the host can share his or her screen.
One other consideration is a reflection from your video feed.
Remember, the host can see anything your camera sees when you have the video turned on, so if the glare of your glasses is bad enough or if you have something in the background that might reflect your screen, it may be possible that portions of your screen might be visible to other Zoomers or on a recording of the session.
This reality is unlikely, but it is something to keep in mind when you have the video turned on.
Does Zoom Record Your Screen Without You Knowing?
It is possible but very unlikely.
If you share your screen with the group and don’t know the session is being recorded, then yes, your screen would be recorded without your knowledge.
If you are concerned, always look for the recording indicator before sharing your screen during a Zoom session.
Remember, though, that Zoom can only record your screen if you share it.
Hosts cannot see or record your screen unless you allow access to your display.
Does Zoom Record All Participants?
Yes, Zoom records every participant in a recorded session, which is why (by default) the session will either offer an audible “Recording in progress” message or a recording consent dialog box.
However, even if these two features are disabled for users in your organization, you will always have the red circle indicator with either the word “Recording” or “REC” nearby to notify you a session capture is in progress.
Remember also that Zoom can only record what you share.
If you don’t enable your webcam, your video feed can’t be captured.
If you never unmute your microphone, the host can’t record what you say.
When Zoom’s popularity mushroomed in 2020 due to the effects of COVID-19, the company faced criticism as it tried to balance features like attention tracking with privacy concerns.
The increase in popularity came with increased scrutiny, but the company has overcome many of these privacy issues in a concerted effort to provide a secure environment for users.
While recording Zoom sessions are useful for those who are unable to attend, the company limits the access hosts have to attendees.
As a result, students and employees can rest assured they will be notified when their session is being recorded and that their screens will not be captured unless they choose to share them with fellow attendees.
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