Look Before You Zoom!


Look before you “zoom” – Staying safe while connecting with others

Connecting with others in real time, whether it’s on Zoom, Facetime, Go to meeting, or any other video-type interactions is a life line to combat social isolation while social distancing. But, how can we be safe? What do we need to know when connecting with others by video? Yes, there are some important safeguards that you may not have thought of when you participate in, or host, any video-type meeting like Zoom.

In this article, “Zoom” will apply to any video-type interaction where you are live online, connecting with others using a phone, tablet, laptop or desktop.

Please take some extra precautions to make sure you are safe. Here is a helpful guide with some ideas to have fun while safely “zooming” with friends and family.

  • Remember you are on the internet. All internet precautions apply, plus more.
  • Only go to Zoom meetings where you personally know the host. If you aren’t sure, call the host and ask.
  • Do not click on any Zoom meeting links if you do not personally know and trust the host (sender). Scammers are sending out fake “phishing” links. Again, call the host if you aren’t sure.
  • Do not share personal data on Zoom windows. Ever. Don’t do it. Be diligent.
  • Watch what you are showing in the background with your camera. Do not show valuable heirlooms, collectibles or other items that you don’t want everyone to know are in your house.
  • Use “wallpaper” or digital photos as your background. In Zoom, this is called a virtual background. Look for it under Settings when you join a meeting.
  • Even if you know the host, you don’t know who else might be lurking. If you see someone inappropriate in the meeting, text the host and suggest that she kick them out.
  • If you share documents or your full screen, be careful what you are displaying on your device.
  • Know how to use mute and turn your camera off and on.
  • Take time to review all your privacy and security settings. This is good advice for all your internet activity.
  • Don’t take Zoom to the bathroom – or any other place where you might be, um, embarrassed. Seriously, this has happened. Put your device on mute and turn off your camera.
  • When you host a meeting,
    • Set up a password. Send the password separately from the meeting information.
    • Do not post your meeting information in a public platform – like Facebook. This will help ensure that uninvited, and unwelcome, people will not be able to join.
    • Watch who has joined. If you don’t know them, remove them.
    • For larger meetings, have participants enter on mute.
    • Turn off annotations so you can control what people write. You may want to limit the ability to chat.
    • Consider having a helper to monitor the meeting, especially for larger meetings.
    • Review the range of privacy and security settings available for hosts.

Most of all, encourage others to connect and enjoy this new experience.

It’s safe to Zoom if you take a few precautions and “look before you zoom.” It can be a lifesaver to reach out to friends and family and to see them and interact socially, albeit virtually.

What are your experiences with Zoom-like meetings? Do you have any other safety tips? Humorous stories?

[OLLI-USF plans to do online classes this summer and is looking at several videoconferencing tools.  No tool is perfect.  Most are as safe as “driving with your seat belt on” if used sensibly.  –Editor]


White-diane-headshot-01Diane White, MA, PMP, earned advanced degrees in information technologies from George Washington University and education from USF.  She has been managing projects for over 25 years in the information technology and telecommunications industries.  She joined OLLI-USF in 2008 and has taken OLLI courses in art, art appreciation, architecture, music, great books, science, nature, literature, and leadership.  She is a member of OLI’s Tech Squad, teaches a variety of technology courses, and is OLLI Connects’ technology contributor and consultant.


11 Replies to “Look Before You Zoom!”

    1. Thank you Mark. There are great tools out there to help. We just need to be mindful to be careful on the internet and use our new tools safely.

  1. Thank you Donna. We are so excited using cool new technology and we need to take a few minutes to review basic security and privacy rules of the road!

  2. Thank you Diane, it’s really useful information. As I use it this time, I’ll apply your advice.
    Thanks in advance,

  3. Zoom classes with OLLI are great. My first thought upon seeing the Zoom class announcements was ‘why should I pay for what I can look up online’. A few months in isolation led me to try Zoom for the social aspect. Thanks to Kathy and Joe, who both encouraged me, I am now fond of Zoom and look forward to classes. Socialization, while of a different kind, is valuable, necessary, and intellectually stimulating. I have been taking Rich Kennedy’s political classes and plan for more. Be sure to try one class before you dismiss the idea. It’s worth it, really good for me.

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