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Zoom's "AI Companion" Feature May Create Public Records Subject to Release

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, government bodies have seen a rise in virtual meetings through platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. In response, technology companies are continuing to develop features that make it easy for participants to refer back to a meeting, or for those who missed the meeting to catch up. However, as this technology develops, public bodies should take note that these features may be creating records of the meeting that could be subject to release under the Public Records Law and preservation under the state’s record retention requirements. 


One such feature is Zoom’s “AI Companion,” which was released by Zoom in September 2023. This feature includes a tool called “AI Summary” that, if enabled, automatically generates a summary of the topics discussed in the meeting that gets emailed to meeting participants. Another tool under AI Companion automatically transcribes the audio of a Zoom meeting or webinar that is recorded to the cloud. After this transcript is processed, it appears as a separate file in the user’s list of recorded meetings. Under Massachusetts Public Records Law, these files containing the content of a meeting may be obtainable by members of the public through records requests.  


There is an option for users to disable these features in their Zoom Account Settings. Account owners or administrators may also disable the features for an entire group. Disabling these features prevent meeting summaries and transcript files from being created, thereby preventing the possible disclosure of private information discussed during meetings. Administrators and meeting hosts should consider whether these features should be disabled. 


These documents will not always be subject to release as public records. At times, there may be reasons to withhold these documents under the Public Records Law, such as meetings with Town Counsel or virtual Executive Sessions. However, with Zoom being one of the most prominent software programs used for virtual meetings, public officials should be mindful going forward that information shared during recorded meetings may be transcribed and subject to public release.  


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