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Note - "This Meeting is Being Recorded:" 'Zoom'-ing Away from the Third-Party Doctrine


Videoconferencing arguably became one of the most useful but pervasive features of the pandemic. Given how pleased institutions are with recent productivity, statistics show use of these platforms is unlikely to disappear or even substantially diminish once the public health landscape fully recovers.As such, society faces an entirely new consideration: How and to what extent is the data collected by videoconferencing platforms protected from government access? And, what control, if any, do we as individuals retain over such data?

The third-party doctrine, which concerns itself with ownership rights of information voluntarily passed to third parties, generally diminishes an individual’s rights and expectations of privacy regarding data collected by third parties. However, the Court incepted the doctrine long before the World Wide Web was released, and modern developments to the doctrine place the expectation of digital privacy on unstable ground. Whatever the case may be, the individual—compelled to use videoconferencing platforms by academic and employment institutions—is not, in any formal sense, voluntarily conveying information to third parties in the manner traditionally understood to implicate the doctrine. Thus, the data collected by videoconferencing platforms should fall outside the scope of the third-party doctrine and should likewise require the government to obtain a warrant to access the data chronicled as a product of institutionally mandated videoconferencing platform use.