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On Saving Automated Meeting Transcripts

Status: Incorporated into The Art of Consensus in March 2021.
See also: w3process #334

Many teleconferencing systems are offering automated speech-to-text facilities to provide captioning and transcription of meetings. Zoom as used by many W3C Groups under the MIT license offers this feature by default as of February 2021.

W3C fosters a community where conversations among those present in a meeting may be conducted freely and openly. It has proven advantageous for meeting participants to be able to ask permission to “go off the record” to explain some background for a position or to provide some other detail that may be misunderstood if quoted out of context. Moreover, some participants have expressed concerns of personal harassment that could be exacerbated by a recorded transcript of their comments.

Captioning and transcription can be helpful to meeting participants, including those who have difficulty hearing, or for whom spoken English is more difficult to understand. With regard to minuting practices, automated speech-to-text technology is improving but is not yet sufficiently accurate to be relied upon as the sole record of the meeting, and its use for minutes is therefore discouraged.

In consideration of the real-time value to meeting participants of automated captions and transcription while respecting the utility of allowing not-for-the-record remarks, W3C’s policy is that automated transcriptions of W3C meetings are solely for the use of those present in the meeting and must not be saved or shared with anyone not present in the meeting. Before enabling automatic transcriptions, the meeting chair must ask those present for consent to enabling transcription and must not permit the meeting host to enable transcription if any participant withholds consent. The chair’s announcement must cover who will have access to the transcript, the purpose/use of it, and for how long it will be retained.

Zoom-specific instructions

In the Host’s account, the ‘Save Captions’ setting must be turned off. This setting is in the “In Meeting (Advanced)” section of the Settings > Meeting tab. See the Zoom Help Center article.

Webex-specific instructions

The Webex Host should make sure Webex Assistant is turned off at the start of a meeting. See Webex Assistant for Meetings Considerations.


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