Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Zoom’s Attention-Tracking Feature Is Ripe for Misuse

Mehreen Kasana, Input:

With bosses increasingly requiring their workers to turn to remote conferencing, Zoom gives administrators full power to track attendees’ attention with an indicator that points out when a participant doesn’t have the app “in focus” for more than 30 seconds. Privacy organizations like EPIC have previously criticized this tool in an official complaint to the Federal Trade Commission, noting that it bypasses browser security and gives access to users’ web cameras without their knowledge.

D’Arcy Norman has an excellent walkthrough of Zoom’s preferences, including how to turn this feature off. It’s possible to turn it off organization-wide — slip your IT department a pack of decent beer and I’m sure that can happen.

Samantha Cole, Vice:

On Twitter, people are finding ways to use the Zoom Rooms custom background feature to slap an image of themselves in their frames. You can record a short, looping video as your background, or take a photo of yourself looking particularly attentive, depending on the level of believability you’re going for. Zoom says it isn’t using any kind of video or audio analysis to track attention, so this is mostly for your human coworkers and boss’ sake. With one of these images on your background, you’re free to leave your seat and go make a sandwich while your boss thinks you’re still there paying attention.

It’s like the security camera trick from every heist movie. Just be careful not to walk back into the frame.