Since December 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused people around the world
to exercise social distancing, which has led to an abrupt rise in the adoption
of remote communications for working, socializing, and learning from home. As
remote communications will outlast the pandemic, it is crucial to protect
users’ security and respect their privacy in this unprecedented setting, and
that requires a thorough understanding of their behaviors, attitudes, and
concerns toward various aspects of remote communications. To this end, we
conducted an online study with 220 worldwide Prolific participants. We found
that privacy and security are among the most frequently mentioned factors
impacting participants’ attitude and comfort level with conferencing tools and
meeting locations. Open-ended responses revealed that most participants lacked
autonomy when choosing conferencing tools or using microphone/webcam in their
remote meetings, which in several cases contradicted their personal privacy and
security preferences. Based on our findings, we distill several recommendations
on how employers, educators, and tool developers can inform and empower users
to make privacy-protective decisions when engaging in remote communications.

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