Privacy and Lawyer Video Calls

When Google was creating the social layer of Google+ prior to June 2011 one issue continued to be discussed – privacy. Click here for more information on the security of Google Video Calls. Like any smart company, Google learned from the mistakes of others. Every day the Google servers have access to billions of search phrases. Many of these search phrases were related to privacy, Facebook, Twitter and social networks. Whether these concerns were warranted is another article for another time. What Google decided was to put privacy first and foremost when creating the social layer of Google+. By doing this, they alleviated many of the concerns of users throughout the United States and the world.

Google+ History

Starting a Private Google Hangout

The Beginnings of Google+

Prior to June 2011 Google worked very hard to create relationships with several social networks. In fact, at one point Google had an ongoing relationship with Twitter to crawl and index all Tweets in a matter of seconds. When Twitter decided to end that contract, which went offline on July 2nd, 2011, the writing was on the wall that Google needed to create a social layer. Notice it is considered a social layer and not a social network. Since the early days, Vic Gundotra has repeated that Google+ is not a social network as it is a social platform that is layered into all Google products. Within the next few years Google would like for Google+ to be properly installed into all Google products including Google search, Google Maps, YouTube, Android, Waze and GMail. Many of these products are already seeing seamless integration.

When Google+ was released in June 2011 there was an online video conference feature that could host up to nine participants. This was titled Hangouts. Not long after Google+ was opened to the public Google announced Hangouts on Air which is the option for users to live stream a video conference to YouTube for the world to see. Hangouts on Air are not private. They are visible to the public from a Google+ profile or a YouTube profile.

Once again, Hangouts on Air are not private! If you are seeking private consultation do not use Hangouts on Air. Think about a Hangout on Air as a live TV show that is available on YouTube.

The policies and principles of Google Hangouts on Air are as follows:

Google+ Hangouts On Air – additional terms

IMPORTANT:You are responsible for all content included in a Hangout On Air which you initiate

You are responsible for ensuring all content included in a Hangout On Air initiated by you complies with this Agreement, including content provided by other participants who may join you in the Hangout. Please choose participants you wish to invite to this Hangout carefully, and if necessary use the blocking feature to stop someone else participating in your Hangout.

Google is offering you a trial of a feature that allows you to live stream Hangouts (the “Live Content”) through Google+ and YouTube. The Live Content will also be recorded and automatically uploaded to your YouTube account at the end of the Hangout for subsequent viewing (the “Archived Content”). The Archived Content will also immediately replace the live stream so than anyone you have shares the Live Content with will also be able to view the Archived Content.

By using Hangouts On Air (the “Service”) you accept and agree to be bound by the Google Terms of Service, the Google+ user content and conduct policy, the privacy policy, the YouTube terms of service, as well as these additional terms and conditions (the “Agreement”). It is important for you to read each of these documents, as they form a legal agreement between you and Google regarding your use of the Service.

When seeking confidentiality it is imperative that Google or Google+ users do not start a Hangout on Air. These files are available as public video files for the world to see. Take this into consideration when sitting down with a client over video conferencing. Here is how you will want to start a private hangout with a client or coworker.

In May 2013, Vic Gundotra announced that Google Talk, also known as GChat, was changing to Hangouts. It is important to get the terminology correct. Users are sometimes confused with the terminology as it has changed. In the early days of Google+ a hangout was only a video conference. Today, a hangout can be either a text based chat or a video based chat. Both of these options are 100% private. This is a statement from the Google+ Hangouts Community Manager Dori Storbeck

“Hangouts keeps your information safe and secure by encrypting all of your communication, including audio and video media streams, from your machine to Google’s servers. This helps protect your Google+ Hangout conversations from being accessed by third parties.”

Starting a Private Google Hangout

It may be confusing to some that a Google Hangout can be started without a Google+ account. Google Hangouts are available to anyone that has a GMail account. I will go into detail as to how to start a Google Hangout from a GMail Account. The first step is to sign in through GMail.

Step #1. Go to and put in the correct username and password. If you do not have a GMail account use the create account box in the upper right hand corner of the screen. The following screenshot was taken in September 2013 so their might be some variability in the layout but there will always be a Sign In feature or a create an account box.


Step #2 – Access the Google Hangouts feature within GMail. On the left hand side of a default GMail setup users will see the following layout:


This particular GMail account does not have any contacts. Even if there are contacts within the Hangouts feature you must still click on the camera icon that is to the right of the phone icon. When clicking the camera icon a new browser pop up screen will appear that looks like this:


As you can see, there is the ability to add names, circles or email addresses. Recently, a function has been added to add telephone. In this box, simply type in the email address of the individual you are trying to start a private Google Hangout with. More advanced users can add participants to their Google+ circles but that will be discussed in another resource. For the most basic service, just type in the email address and the client or coworker will get an invitation through their email.

Step 3 – Invite participant(s) by name, circles or email address.

Below is the screen that becomes available once you click submit or cancel. Notice there is an option to invite people in the very middle of the browser as well as on the left hand side. Both of these tabs are clickable links that will bring up the previous screen that will allow a user to add names, circles or email address.



Step 4 – Enjoy a 100% private video conference Google Hangout. After completing steps one through three you will have access to a private Google Hangout video chat.

Precautions: Make 100% certain the participant does not share the invitation link to anyone. This link will allow an Google+ user to entire the private hangout chat. Under no circumstances should this link be shared by the invitee. If you want a completely private hangout make sure the client or coworker is aware of this before the event starts.

Best Practices for a Google Hangout

If, at any point, you see “Hangouts on Air” displayed on the Google interface this is not a 100% secure hangout when it comes to privacy. By following the previous steps you should not see Hangout on Air but sometimes there is a glitch in the software. If you see Hangout on Air listed make sure to close that Internet browser stab and start from Step #1 above. A Hangout on Air is a live streaming piece of video content that can be seen by accessing the owner’s YouTube account. After the Hangout has concluded the content is then housed on YouTube and is visible to the world to see. This is not something that will be acceptable to clients that are seeking confidentiality.

During a Hangout:

1. Be aware of your surroundings in a hangout. Most lawyers and attorneys will be performing the hangout from their office so recognize that the client can see anything that is on the background or possibly on a desk. Do a few test runs with your friends, coworkers or staff to make certain there is nothing that will allow clients to see something they should not see. Surprisingly, many hangouts are started without doing a test run and a specific document is visible to the participants.

2. A strong connection is desirable. When doing professional hangouts hosts prefer an upload speed of 5 mbps and a download speed of 40 mbps. You can check this at Speed Test. It is not imperative to have speeds this high but the strong the connection the better the video conference. One thing that is suggested is to hardwire an ethernet cable into a laptop or desktop computer. When using a wifi connection there is a chance of dropping the broadcast. Taking part in a hangout that is choppy or jumpy can be very difficult especially when important topics are being discussed.

3. Having headphones and a microphone helps. Headphones and a microphone are not 100% necessary to do a Google hangout but they do make the experience more enjoyable. If you are doing a hangout without headphones the audio within the resource will catch anything. If a client has a dog barking in the background or a door slams it will be heard by everyone in the hangout. A set of iPhone or iPod earbuds works wonders when it comes to sound quality. A microphone is valuable when looking for the best quality audio but not 100% necessary.

4. A soundproof room works well. When starting a Google Hangout it is best find a room that is soundproof. An office or private room offers the greatest opportunity to speak with a client with no mishaps. It would be a good idea to mention this to the client as well as you will not want to discuss legal issues with them sitting in a public library or at a university.

5. Prepare your client or audience. Preparation is key when it comes to a Google Hangout. Let your client or participant know when you plan on contacting them. Also bring this resource to their attention. It can be very difficult to conduct a meeting with a participant that is still learning how to use the service. Although the Google Hangouts feature is quite easy for experienced computer users it can be daunting to someone that has not been active on the Internet. Take this into consideration before assuming they will be able to immediately hop into a hangout and have a discussion.

6. Avoid tablets and smartphones with hangouts. There is an option to start and run a hangout from an iPhone or iPad. Android smartphone and tablets have this feature as well. At the present time (September 2013) AT&T users cannot run a hangout via the mobile network. They can run a hangout if their smartphone or tablet is connected to wifi. While this may seem like a more accessible way to access the video conference hangout feature I would not suggest it for legal consultation. In personal experience, this method of conferencing is not nearly as secure in terms of a connection. The privacy is secure but the connection gets dropped quite a bit. There is also no way to hard wire an ethernet cord into a smartphone or tablet which makes the signal not as strong.

While most people are comfortable just starting a Google Hangout and “winging” it this is not the proper way to progress with a business relationship or transaction. Clients or customers may not be concerned with their attire or background but it is very important for a legal professional. As updates are presented by Google this resource will have all the information that is needed to keep a Google hangout completely private and secure.