Google recently announced a new Workspace feature that allows you to customise your background during video calls on Google Meet.
Of course, the novelty wears off quickly (but not before you’ve seen yourself in a field of Labrador puppies, or floating somewhere in the Fox Fur Nebula), after which you’ll begin to appreciate the most important aspect of this feature: personal privacy.
The Covid-19 pandemic gave way to a dramatic increase in video conferencing. We’ve all embraced the technology not only to stay in touch with loved ones and retain a small part of “normal” life – human interaction – but, more importantly, to get work done.
Virtual conferencing tools and the high-bandwidth interaction it enables are great but come at the cost of inviting others into your home. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but after the 100th video call, you realise, you’re inviting complete strangers into your private living space – warts and all.
Maybe you don’t have a home office and have no other choice other than taking calls in the living room or bedroom. Or, maybe you prefer the garden or balcony, or where you can keep an eye on your toddler having their nap?
Your background and surroundings scream into focus on the other side of the call, where it becomes a single, two-dimensional image: you AND the background behind you – with equal visual impact. Here, you may become an unwitting participant in a Big Brother show, or worse: the “star” in a new Youtube or Instagram meme.
Perhaps news anchors can get away with broadcasting in a pair of boxers and a smart dress shirt, but dirty dishes in the background won’t do anything for your professional image.
In the immortal words of Edward Snowden, “arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy because you have nothing to hide is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”
We recommend that your video background filter should be enabled by default. It plays an essential role in shielding your private life from your professional life. And even though the boundaries between our professional and personal lives may blur at times, especially in the new WFH (work from home) movement, we must remain cognizant and diligent to keep our personal lives personal. We all deserve the freedom and ability to control our filters.
Custom backgrounds are available to all Google Meet users without the need to install or configure special software. All you need is an internet browser (we recommend Chrome).
Available on these Google Workspace tiers: Essentials, Business Starter, Business Standard, Business Plus, Enterprise Essentials, Enterprise Standard, Enterprise Plus, Education, Enterprise for Education, and Nonprofits customers and users with personal Google accounts.