Viral social media posts are alleging that Zoom, a popular video-conferencing tool, lets hosts “monitor what programs users on the call are running.” So, can your boss (or friend) really see what you’re doing while you’re chatting on Zoom? Nope.
What Is “Attention Tracking” in Zoom?
Zoom does have an “attention tracking” feature that hosts can enable. If the person hosting the call enables it, they can see whether or not you’re paying attention to screen-sharing presentations. But this feature is very limited. Here’s what you need to know:
- Zoom’s attention tracking is off by default unless a host enables it.
- The feature tracks attention while someone is using Zoom’s screen-sharing feature. It doesn’t track attention while you’re simply video-chatting.
- Zoom only tracks attention. Specifically, it will tell the host if someone hasn’t had the Zoom window in focus on their desktop in the last 30 seconds.
- Zoom doesn’t tell the host which application you’re using. The host can only see whether you’ve had the Zoom window in focus on your desktop in the last 30 seconds.
In other words, this feature is intended for people giving visual presentations. If someone is giving a presentation, they can see who’s actually watching and who’s minimized the Zoom window and is doing other things. The host can’t see what those people are doing instead.
Can You See Whether Attention Tracking is Enabled?
There is one issue: While the host can choose to enable or disable attention tracking, people on the call aren’t shown whether attention tracking is enabled or not. There’s no warning that you’ll be tracked in this way. We wish Zoom would display a notification or let people on the call see whether it’s enabled. People would feel more comfortable.
Ultimately, attention tracking is extremely limited. Hosts can see very little—they can only see whether you’re actively watching presentations or not. Attention tracking is similar to read receipts that show whether you’ve read messages in apps like Facebook Messenger, Apple’s iMessage, and WhatsApp.
Zoom’s official documentation offers more details about attention tracking.
Hi, attention tracking feature is off by default – once enabled, hosts can tell if participants have the App open and active when the screen-sharing feature is in use. It does not track any aspects of your audio/video or other applications on your window. https://t.co/sWWfrsXe42
— Zoom (@zoom_us) March 22, 2020