Creating Records at Home, Part II: Zoom

Continuing our series on “Creating Records at Home” (Part I covered Microsoft Teams), let’s talk about what to do with records created in videoconferencing platforms like Zoom.

Computer teleconferencing and drinking coffee while cat watches.

Many readers may be getting questions from their staff about what to do with their Zoom recordings and chat logs. Are they records, and if so, how long do we need to keep them?

Note: This guidance applies to recordings and chat logs created in any videoconferencing platform—not only Zoom.

To Record or Not to Record? That Is the First Question.

As with all new technologies you adopt, it is important to consider what data is being created, if it is a government record, how it is being stored, and how long it needs to be maintained.

First, think about your government’s recordkeeping responsibilities for each of its functions. This will vary based on your organization’s internal policies and regulatory landscape. Generally speaking, there is no need to start creating new types of records if they are not required by your policies and procedures to properly document the transaction of government business. We use Zoom and other videoconferencing platforms as a substitute for face-to-face interactions. However, video recordings, chat logs, transcripts, and participant rosters are all items that may or may not have been part of the documentation of in-person meetings. The worry with videoconferencing platforms is that they may be automatically recording data that is not normally recorded in equivalent in-person interactions.

For example, say your weekly internal department meeting now takes place online, rather than in the conference room at the office. Back in the office, the procedure may have been to document who attended the meeting, to take notes and produce official meeting minutes, and then to send a follow-up email with next steps after the meeting. Now that you’re meeting via Zoom, you still do all those things, but you also have the option to easily make a recording of the meeting and send open or private messages to other attendees.

Is there any administrative or legal need to record your meetings?

It is up to your governing body, executive management, and/or records management officer to decide if this type of data should be recorded as part of your normal recordkeeping procedures. The recording requirements may differ depending on the type of meeting being conducted.

If there is no requirement to make a recording or allow written chats, you may want to turn these features off. In Zoom, the meeting organizer can disable the chat as needed.

No Need to Record? Adjust Your Zoom Settings

Recording options can be changed through Security and Chat settings while a meeting is in progress…

…or you can enable/disable Chat by default for all your meetings. It is also possible to prevent attendees from downloading chat messages; this can help control the proliferation of duplicate transitory information. These settings can be disabled by your IT department if you are using a licensed version of Zoom.

Recording can also be controlled through your general meetings settings. If there is no need to record a meeting, make sure the automatic recording option is toggled off. Like Chats, you can also prevent attendees from making their own recordings within the platform:

Recording Required

Some types of meetings may have always been recorded by your agency, and the use of Zoom does not affect the retention of these recordings. For example, recordings of open meetings must be retained for at least 90 days following the approval of the open meeting minutes (see GR1000-03e [local] and RSIN 1.1.060 [state]).

For records series that have longer retention periods, such as the minimum 2 year retention for recordings of closed governing body meetings (see GR1000-03f [local] and RSIN 1.1.059 [state]), you will want to consider how you will be storing these records for their full retention period. See the “Storage” section below.

Recording Not Required

For those meetings where recordings may not be required (again, consult your legal and executive staff to determine which types of meetings these are), you may be asking: are they records? What if you have old recordings that were created before you updated your procedures and stopped recording certain types of meetings?

If the recordings document the transaction of government business, then generally speaking, they are records.

However, they may not be very long-lasting records with enduring value.

Let’s bring back our example of internal staff meetings. These are not open meetings. Records from these meetings only need to be retained for a minimum of one year for state agencies (see RSIN 1.1.063), and they only need to be retained as long as administratively valuable for local governments (see GR1000-32).

If you did decide to record these internal staff meetings, would you need to retain the recording for the same amount of time as the minutes and notes? That depends on why the recording was made.

If you are only recording to ensure the accuracy or quality of the meeting minutes, to double-check attendance, etc., then the recording may be Transitory Information. Once the purpose of the recording has been served (e.g. to ensure the accuracy of the minutes or to verify attendance), then the recording no longer needs to be retained.

On the other hand, if you are recording the internal staff meeting in lieu of taking notes or keeping minutes, then the recording is fulfilling the purpose of the meeting minutes and should be retained under record series GR1000-32 or 1.1.063.

This is just one example of a circumstance where the retention requirements can vary depending on the purpose of the meeting recording. Contact your analyst to discuss specific cases.

Storage

You can save a Zoom recording to your local computer, and licensed Zoom users have the option to save recordings “in the cloud.” If you know that a meeting must be recorded, you can adjust that meeting’s settings so that the recording starts and stops automatically:

Whether you are initially saving recordings locally or to the cloud, you will want to make sure the recordings remain accessible for their full retention period.

For a recording saved locally, make sure it is filed in a clearly named, retention-conscious folder in your share drive or content management system. For more help with this, contact your analyst or read some organization tips on our shared drive cleanup success story post. Work with your IT department or Zoom license administrator to ensure that any local or cloud-based storage systems are backed up adequately.

If you are considering keeping recordings in the Zoom cloud, ensure that files cannot be accidentally deleted. There is an option to automatically delete recordings after a certain number of days, which may or may not be desirable. Remember also that deleted recordings will remain in the “trash” for 30 days unless they are permanently deleted manually.

Additionally, consider whether you will still be using Zoom and will have access to your Zoom cloud several years from now. Does your Zoom plan have enough storage capacity? If not, can you afford to purchase more? In general, exercise caution when relying on third-party services to retain your sole copy of records.

But Wait…What About Chat Logs?

Recordings are not the only files that may be automatically stored in Zoom. Unless the Chat itself and/or automatic chat log recording is disabled, Zoom may be automatically retaining chat logs for your meetings. The same general rules that apply to audiovisual recordings (discussed above) will apply to chat logs.

Unless there is government business being discussed in the Chat, then the chat logs are likely to be Transitory Information. For example, our RMA team mainly uses the Chat function before our team meetings to discuss what we’re having for lunch. This is not a government record and does not need to be maintained.

If your chat logs are more substantial and do discuss government business, then they are likely records. You can transcribe the relevant comments into another record, such as the meetings notes or minutes, or retain the chat log for the proper amount of time, depending on what purpose those chat logs are fulfilling. Meeting Notes are a common record series for these chat logs, and there are a couple different options for meeting notes:

Meeting TypeLocal
Series
State Series
Internal Staff Meeting NotesGR1000-321.1.063
Open Meeting NotesGR1000-03b1.1.061

Whichever storage method you choose for your recordings and chat logs, the ultimate goal is to ensure that the records can be quickly and easily located and accessed in the event of an open records request, subpoena, or audit.

Happy Zooming!

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