Open Courts and Living Rooms Visible Due to Video Conferencing

Video hearings is how the courts and adjudicative bodies (and municipal councils etc) function now to the pandemic. There are many access and privacy issues with this. Adjudicator Ian Mackenzie provides a good summary of this in a piece published on Slaw this morning.

Of note, for me in my journalism practice, is how I may perceive individuals based upon where they are video conferencing from and what is in their background.

Living in a household while participating in a video hearing also raises significant privacy issues, especially for public hearings. We have all experienced — either personally or through viral videos — the amusement of video interviews where family members or pets have entered the frame. And there are social media feeds devoted to rating the rooms of Zoom interviewees. In a real hearing room, the living conditions and personal items of a witness are clearly not observable. As an adjudicator I do not believe that what I see in someone’s home will have any impact on my decision-making. The concern here is the ability of members of the public to see into someone’s living room, kitchen or home office.

In my academic work, I'm mindful of my background and appearance while delivering a lecture by video. My credibility is partially determined by appearance. Hence, I position myself to have the exposed brick walls of my office as my backdrop.

Similarly, I do find myself noting the surroundings of politicians during livestreams of video meetings.

We all must be conscious of our bias, especially if we are in positions of trust. Journalism is a trust, and thus I need to ensure that when delegates (for example) come in front of Council, that I'm not allow this form of bias to harm my reporting.