Zoom configurations — 5 mins for privacy and security

Laura Noren
5 min readMar 16, 2020

Spending time in Zoom meetings?

Here are the Zoom configurations that will help safeguard your privacy and security. I threw in a couple Zoom etiquette tips along the way.

Open Zoom on your laptop/desktop.
Click on the settings gear in the upper right hand corner.

2. Check the box for “stop my video and audio when my display is off or screen saver begins”.

This is a security and privacy backstop. If you forget to leave a meeting when it ends, you could continue to share your video and/or audio with other people. Theoretically, you could also share your screen for longer than you intended, too. If you make sure your Zoom session ends when your computer goes to screensaver or you’ve closed your laptop, at least you have a backstop in place.

3. Set Zoom to Turn off your video when joining a meeting.

In the Video settings area (click on Video in the left side bar):
a. make sure you check the box to turn off your video when joining a meeting;
b. Always show video preview dialog when joining a video meeting
c. Uncheck the box that would allow people to ‘hide’ if they aren’t sharing your video.

These configurations will ensure you always have to take action before sharing your video and that it will be easy to scan to see how many people are in the meeting, even if they haven’t shared their video.

Etiquette about video sharing varies from context to context.
In some contexts, it is considered quite rude not to share your video. In others, sharing video may be unnecessary or may make the call unstable so it is preferred not to share.

4. In the Audio settings, make sure to mute your microphone when joining a meeting.

When you want to talk, you’ll have to remember to unmute.

Not only does this protect you from being overheard sharing private information, it is also considered good etiquette to keep yourself muted whenever you aren’t speaking. This keeps background noise — like typing, car horns on your street, and the joyful sounds of children/pets — to a minimum.

5. Mute those notifications.

Don’t want your call to be bombarded by pings and Slack zips? Mute notifications when you’re in a meeting or a call. This also serves a privacy purpose — no need to have the full text of an SMS or Slack chat shared with an entire meeting while you’re screen sharing. Slack chats can certainly contain sensitive customer information that may even represent a breach of an NDA or a privacy protocol if they are shared too broadly.

And students, we know you don’t want the whole class to see texts from your parents or best friends.

6. Virtual backgrounds!

Zoom makes it possible for you to insert a FOMO-style background behind you. Besides making Zoom a lot more fun, this is also a great privacy and security screen.

Virtual backgrounds hide what’s going on behind you, whether it’s a whiteboard full of protected IP, a mess in your room, your partner making coffee in their pajamas, or a bunch of people in a cafe who probably don’t want to have a cameo in your strategy session.

Virtual backgrounds take about 30 seconds to set up if you use Zoom’s options. You can also upload your own background, but we all know that will take longer because you’ll have a hard time choosing which image to use. Either way, this is one you’ll want to set up a ways before the meeting starts. Meeting participants don’t like it when you change backgrounds during the call, according to my informants.

7. Get something to physically cover your computer’s camera when you aren’t using it.

There are low cost, highly effective adhesive windows you can use to cover your camera. A piece of painters’ tape opaque blue tape or a cleverly folded post-it will also work. You want to putting tape directly on the camera itself otherwise little gobs of adhesive will attract dust and cloud up your camera.

8. Set your phone or laptop on a hard surface and shine a light on your face.

Ok, this one has nothing to do with privacy or security. Please set your laptop or phone on a stable surface — not resting in your lap, not held in your hand. It can be mildly nauseating to have a call with someone whose video is jiggling around while they are walking down the street, cooking, or even just sitting in bed. This might be OK for your friends and family, but it is not OK for class or professional meetings.

Likewise, the weird shadows generated by poor lighting are best avoided in professional contexts. The best advice is to have natural light hitting your face from the front. Alternatively, try aiming a light at your face. Zoom does have built-in features to soften harsh shadows and that feature really shines if your face is well-lit to begin with.

That’s all there is to it. You’re configured for Zoom success.