Employees, students and other Zoom users should be aware of a watchful feature on the remote conferencing service: It tells the person running the chat whether or not you’re paying attention.
During the coronavirus pandemic, video and audio software use has ramped up, introducing many to the telecommuting world of Zoom. While some welcome the interaction virtual meetings provide to break up their time working remotely, others are less enthused and would rather do other things.
If you’re one of those others, beware.
On Zoom, there’s a feature called “attention tracking” that identifies whether participants have clicked away from the active Zoom window for more than 30 seconds.
“Hosts can see an indicator in the participant panel of a meeting or webinar if an attendee does not have Zoom Desktop Client or Mobile App in focus for more than 30 seconds while someone is sharing a screen. ‘In focus’ means the user has the Zoom meeting view open and active,” says the brand’s blog.
Before you get too scared, Zoom does note that the feature “doesn’t use any audio or video tracking and only tracks attention while someone is sharing a screen.”
In a 2018 blog post geared toward teachers, the company explains that “if Zoom is not the app in focus” on the user’s computer, the administrator “will see a clock indicator next to their name in the Participant box (looks like nobody’s paying attention in this meeting!).”
You can see the clocks in the image below:
Users can disable the tracking feature in their account settings, but the administrator can also make this setting mandatory for all users by clicking on the lock icon.
If you’re feeling particularly sneaky and/or creative, there are hacks online to make it look like you’re paying attention when you’re not. People have set up camera stands in front of their laptop with images of themselves sitting at their desks and even played around with Zoom Rooms custom backgrounds to keep an image of themselves in their frames, according to Vice.