Undoubtedly, the COVID-19 pandemic has substantially increased our dependence on video conferencing technologies. With millions of Australians now relying on Zoom, Microsoft Teams, WebEx and other video conferencing platforms to run their businesses, to gain an education or to attend court, it has become necessary to consider whether video conferencing is an equitable cyber solution. Most discourse on safe cyber practice seems to discuss technical security at length, whilst providing minimal, if any, discussion about socially safe and equitable practices. Whether video conferencing technologies are socially safe or equitable cyber practices is evaluated below.
Implementing video conferencing technologies amidst a pandemic has been typically a decision of necessity. Nevertheless, video conferencing has also been recognised for its benefits in aiding productive workplaces. Reduced travel time, capacity to record and transcribe and the convenience of working from the comfort of your own home are typically named as the benefits of video conferencing technology. Some reports also indicate that video conferencing can aid more meaningful connections between team members. Whilst these benefits may appear to be incidental to video conferencing, often the success of audio-visual conferences depends on several socio-economic factors.
Much of the success of video conferencing relies on assumptions made about a person’s social setting, economic capacity and behaviour. Typically, these assumptions include; access to a secure, stable and speedy internet connection, access to a reliable device fitted with audio-visual capacity and access to a quiet, comfortable and well-lit working environment and reasonable knowledge and capacity in using appropriate technology. Often these assumptions are made without sufficient inquiry or engagement with the relevant individuals. Should assumptions do not always resonate with reality, often leading to poor conferencing capacity and limited or restricted productivity.
To remedy these equity concerns, a more appropriate solution would see organisations provide either appropriate video conferencing facilities to their students and staff members or provide alternatives. Whilst purchasing devices may be appropriate in some instances, this may not be the most viable or commercially sound decision in all circumstances. Simple inquiry-based solutions may provide more effective alternatives. For example, something as simple as permitting staff or students to borrow computers whilst working at home may be more effective. Providing headphones or providing flexible working hours may also be helping in improving the quality of conferences. Alternatives to video conferencing should also be considered in this instance. It may be that a telephone call would enable staff or students to have more productive connections. Phone calls can be particularly useful in circumstances involving timid personalities who may not feel comfortable appearing on camera. Having a brief casual discussion about non-work-related matters prior to discussing the crux of the meeting may also be very helpful in encouraging safer and more equitable work practices. It may also be the case that staff members or the students are struggling to use a particular program. Providing training sessions and ongoing technical support options may increase productivity.
It can therefore be concluded that whilst there are many benefits of video conferencing during a global pandemic, technically secure video conferencing alone does not produce cyber safe outcomes. Inequitable video conferencing practices may be remedied by adopting simple human factor-focused steps. Put simply, we need to make sure that we continue to help and support each other.
Emmanuela Yiolitis is a final year Bachelor of Laws (Hons) / Bachelor of Arts student at La Trobe University. She is is currently writing a law honours thesis on the prosecution of cybercrime under the supervision of Professor David Watts. Outside of WiseLaw, she works as a paralegal to a leading barrister and as a customer success specialist with Immediation Pty Ltd.
"Students of these universities have been very vocal in their opposition to the use of these programs including concerns for security, privacy and false detections"
"...the most urgent thing government can do to flatten the curve as online hate itself goes viral, is to fund the work that is monitoring the rise of hate and working to prevent it."
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