PSA: Zoom will narc to your boss if you're tabbed out during a meeting

Hello, Mr. Freeman. I need you to look at this spreadsheet. (Image credit: Valve)

As the world shifts to working from home, things are looking great for Zoom, one of the most popular video conferencing apps, with millions of new users and a stock that's actually up while most of the economy is in freefall. I regret to inform you that the Zoom software is also a narc, and incredibly eager to tattle on anyone using it.

Zoom has a feature called "attendee attention tracking" that does the following: "Hosts can see an indicator in the participant panel of a meeting or webinar if an attendee does not have Zoom Desktop Client or Mobile App in focus for more than 30 seconds while someone is sharing a screen. 'In focus' means the user has the Zoom meeting view is open and active."

Thirty seconds. That's how long Zoom will give you before going crying to your boss: Hey, this jerk isn't paying attention! So what if you're digging through your email for some information pertinent to the discussion? So what if you're reading about Half-Life: Alyx because someone's presenting the 47th chart that actually has no bearing on your job? So what if you're chasing legend in Hearthstone while also listening, of course, attentively? Zoom's gonna rat on you no matter what.

If hours of virtual meetings are your personal hell, then Zoom's attention tracking feature is the hot poker being shoved in your eye.

I'm sure all these people really need to be in this meeting.

I'm sure all these people really need to be in this meeting. (Image credit: Zoom)

There is some slightly good news here in that Zoom asks you to let it track your window focus; under Account Settings, you can disable attention tracking. This option, of course, is also geared towards bosses, as Zoom helpfully explains on its website:

"(Optional) If you want to make this setting mandatory for all users in your account, click the lock icon, and then click Lock to confirm the setting."

If you have to suffer through hours of remote meetings a day, the least you should be able to do is minimize the window when you know it's safe to tune out. People have already come up with creative ways to loop videos of themselves to fake paying attention in meetings, but that won't work if someone is presenting and you minimize the window.

Be an ally of the people, Zoom. Let us slack off in these stressful times. For now, we'll all just have to bust out our old laptops to look attentive in the seventh meeting of the day (Or the first. I'm not here to judge you).

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).