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The COVID-19 crisis has led to the temporary shutdown and gradual reopening of courtrooms. In some jurisdictions, proceedings have moved online, which has increased the use of Zoom and similar video conferencing platforms. This technology has changed how some courts handle divorce cases and it may eventually revolutionize the entire legal system.

Remote hearings and the “paperless” office, of course, aren’t new. By now, many family law firms are familiar with processing financial documents electronically. But when you share these documents and other sensitive data, especially during videoconferences, maintaining security and privacy is essential.

Sharing Financial Data On Camera: Security and Confidentiality

During a videoconference, you can share documents on-screen with everyone. For hearings, you may also need to upload files to a certain website for a judge’s review before the proceedings.

In this public forum, data privacy and software security have become big issues. During recent “Zoom bombings,” hackers jammed live meetings with graphic and disturbing content. Among the meetings hacked into were those that revealed private financial statements. Some of the hackers stole Zoom login credentials and posted meeting IDs, email addresses, passwords, and names and host keys online. Zoom has since introduced tighter security measures, including two-factor authentification.

These are some best practices for sharing financial data via videoconference:

Evaluate the platform – Whenever you host a meeting — rather than a third-party — you have some control over the security and confidentiality of the proceedings. Before you use a video conferencing platform, make sure you understand its security features and their limitations. Because of its popularity, Zoom may be more of a target for online thieves. Instead of using free and publically available tools, enterprise or commercial solutions can more fully protect sensitive financial data. Ideally, the software will include end-to-end encryption to prevent data from falling into the wrong hands.

Limit how much you share on-screen – Share only the document window rather than the whole screen so that you don’t show any information in the background that may be confidential. If applicable, you may disable the option for participants to share documents and leave it to the host only.

Secure your meetings – In Zoom, for example, you may want to create a new meeting link or ID for each conference and/or require a password, which you issue separately, preferably over the phone. You can “lock” the meeting after everyone has joined. Zoom also lets hosts enable a “waiting room” to control who they let into a conference. Commercial Zoom users may also restrict which global server centers will handle the meeting data, which is helpful if you’re concerned about servers in certain countries. Regardless of the platform, a phone call may be a more suitable alternative for sharing some information.

Chat and other forms of messaging – Zoom and other videoconferencing tools let participants chat during a meeting. You can disable this feature or limit messaging to only the host and the participants.

Recordings – Online meeting platforms also let you record video or audio. The software may also let you transcribe the audio from a videoconference into a text file for storage elsewhere.

Your law firm may already have a policy regarding recordings and document retention, which can cover how long you keep data — depending on the purpose — and where you store it.

Unless you are legally required to do so, you may not need to record the meetings. You can choose to prevent participants from making their own recordings as well. Even during unrecorded videoconferences, Zoom and other platforms may gather a meeting Internet Protocol (IP) address, operating system data, and other device information for all the participants.

Generally speaking, privacy laws regarding handling sensitive financial data vary from state to state or jurisdiction. Many states require one party’s consent for a recording, and some require everyone’s approval; it’s better to get permission from all participants beforehand.

Videoconferencing is helpful for sharing financial data remotely, yet the technology has some limitations. It improves efficiency, but when it comes to sharing sensitive information, take care to achieve better case outcomes.

Exciting news! The American Academy of Certified Financial Litigators (AACFL) and the Accountant-Lawyer Alliance (ALA) have joined forces to bring their members unparalleled resources for education, networking, and practice development to help them get superior financial results for their clients. Gold AACFL members now have access to the ALA network of professionals — among the largest in the country — and education benefits, which include unlimited live CLE and CPE. Never pay for credits again!

Find out how becoming a member can expand your financial knowledge and your network in the divorce community.