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Can You Record a Meeting Without Consent?

Delve into the nuances of recording meetings in the workplace—explore legality, ethics, and best practices with our helpful guide.

By Alexandria Hewko  •   March 5, 2024  •   7 min read

With 77% of meetings now hosted virtually, there are many new opportunities to leverage technology to improve accountability, organization, and planning. Whether your team uses Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Google Meet, or any other video conferencing platform, it’s important to understand certain etiquette around virtual meetings. In this article, we’ll learn if you can record a meeting without consent and how to record meeting contents properly. 

Can you record a meeting without consent?

The answer here is yes, and no. In general, it is legal to record a meeting without consent, but factors like regional laws, company policies, and the type of content discussed in the meeting will all impact communication requirements for recording meetings. 

You should focus on the content and context of the meeting and reflect on how the recorded material would be used post-call. In some cases, a Zoom meeting can be recorded and shared with a small group of people but not shared publicly. In other scenarios, it’s possible to retain only the recorded content for a limited period of time, like one week or one year.

In addition to the legal concerns, considering consent when recording meetings is essential in building trust and fostering collaboration. Recording meetings without consent can negatively impact employee well-being and comfort levels.

When to record and when not to record a meeting

When to record:

  1. For future reference or documentation. Many teams already document calls through writing meeting minutes, which makes it easy to remember what topics were covered and which decisions were made. Recording the call can also improve accountability when someone is assigned a task during the call and preserve organizational knowledge. Since meeting notes are already so commonly used, it’s safe to record the call when the purpose is to improve accuracy and accountability. 
  2. For members who cannot attend. Meeting recaps are a great way to share conversations with someone who couldn’t attend the live session. They provide more detail than meeting notes but still keep it condensed enough that they don’t need to re-watch the entire conversation on 1X speed.
  3. For training and development purposes. You’ve likely phoned a call center and heard them say they’ll use recordings for training purposes, and this is a completely valid reason. For example, customer service teams can use recordings to learn the best responses to tricky questions, or junior sales associates can watch demos of product pitches to help them understand how to sell the new offer. 
  4. For complex or critical discussions. HR and management teams often rely on recorded calls to maintain a paper trail of critical employee conversations, such as interviews, performance improvement planning, and exit interviews. 

Record and capture every discussion and decision

Fellow’s AI Meeting Copilot automatically records, transcribes, and summarizes meetings so everyone has an accurate record and can stay present. Seamlessly linked to your meeting notes and calendar events, you can skip a meeting and access it later without missing any context, decisions, or next steps.

When not to record: 

  1. Consider legal and compliance considerations. Some regions have specific regulations around recording calls, which may vary depending on whether the meeting happens via video conferencing, telephone, or other means. Also, consider whether your company has information that needs to be protected, such as intellectual property that has not been publicly announced yet.
  2. During one-on-one meetings. The structure of one-on-ones is designed for a manager and employee to build alignment, find ways of overcoming challenges, and support employee needs. It is considered a standard meeting type that shouldn’t be recorded if there are no critical talking points that an HR manager would need to be informed on.
  3. Informal or casual meetings. Coffee chats are one example, but informal discussions can also include any part of the meeting that actually needs to be recorded. Informal conversations are a time when employees should feel comfortable opening up, and they may not do that when they’re being recorded.
  4. Lack of purpose. If your meeting has no specific purpose or goal, it’s hard to provide other parties with a reason to record the call. Luckily, putting meeting guidelines in place prevents this from happening.

Types of consent for recording meetings and calls 

These may include, but not be limited to:

  1. One-party consent which means only one person in the conversation needs to know the call is being recorded. This allows calls to be recorded secretly. The majority of states in the United States allow one-party consent.
  2. Two-party consent means that all people on the call must be informed that it is being recorded before the recording begins. According to OrecX, countries that require two-party consent include the United Kingdom, India, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Finland, Australia, and Romania.
  3. Passive consent doesn’t require a firm verbal or written answer from someone. For example, you could say you’re recording a call and if the other person doesn’t get off the call then it’s implied that they’ve provided permission.
  4. Active consent means that permission can only be granted via a firm verbal or written answer. Every party on the call would each need to provide an individual response confirming they consent to being recorded. Make sure to document this consent in your meeting notes as well. 

Key questions to ask before recording a virtual meeting 

  1. Is recording this meeting necessary? Think of the reasons why you want to have the call documented and ensure that you have a valid purpose before pressing “record.”
  2. Who else will be impacted if I record this call? The recording may impact plenty of people, whether they’re attendees in the live conversation or not. For example, it can help inform an authorized person who could not attend the live call about the meeting’s topics and decisions. Or, it can accidentally or maliciously be used to tattle on what someone on the call said. 
  3. Where is the recording going to be stored and shared? Securely storing and sharing meeting records is important to protect the privacy and accuracy of that information. A classic example is if someone with improper access used a recording to release confidential company information that is not yet publicly available as it could create a PR crisis for the company or give an advantage to competing firms. To avoid this, look for a company that clearly lays out its security policies like Fellow does here
  4. Are there employer policies or local regulations that I need to follow? It’s always best to do your research and ask around before making the final call on which consent rules you should follow. 
  5. Is it ethical to record a call at work? Even in cases where it is legal to record a call, it may not always be ethical. For example, one-on-one meetings could legally be recorded but it doesn’t serve many benefits for the employee so it may not be ethical or necessary.
  6. Can I record a call for personal use? If you’re at work, you should check with your employer’s policies to see if they have a statement about using company assets for personal use. Outside of work, you can record a call for personal use if you follow local regulations regarding the type of consent needed.
  7. Am I allowed to record the entirety of this conversation or only select parts? Certain conversations may not need to have the entire call documented. Most meetings start with informal icebreaker conversations, so a best practice is to start the recording right before you jump into the important segments of the call. Learning about meeting minutes templates can help you see how calls are structured and evaluate which parts are worth recording.
  8. What software requirements do I need to record a call? You can record calls on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, but not the free version of Google Meet. Depending on the product, you might also want to rely on third-party software. Fellow has native integrations with Google Meet, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams, allowing you to record or check if the call is being recorded without ever leaving the software.
  9. How will participants know if a call is being recorded? Video conferencing software and any tool that feeds into them, like Fellow, will have a clear indicator on the meeting screen to signal that the call is being recorded. 
  10. What happens if I don’t get consent to record my meeting? Unless you can do one-party consent, you must either collect consent from the other parties, have the meeting go unrecorded, or agree with the other party about the best way to document the call. 

Navigate meeting recordings ethically with Fellow 

With Fellow, you can automatically record, transcribe, and summarize your meetings, ensuring that important details are captured accurately. What’s more, Fellow AI Meeting Copilot will clearly show all attendees when a meeting is being recorded, keeping everyone informed and in the loop.

When it comes to collecting consent, remember to add a consent item to the meeting agenda. You can leverage Fellow’s AI transcription feature to document the consent. Then, it stays shared in a centralized space for all attendees and stakeholders to view later, ensuring transparency and accountability across the board. Fellow also prides itself on helping teams run and record productive meetings while prioritizing privacy and security.

Take the stress out of meeting recordings with Fellow. Get started today!

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