AI Notetaker Tools – Time Saver or Ticking Time Bomb?

Commercial

minutes reading time

DATE PUBLISHED: February 7, 2024

key takeaways

  • AI tools can be useful to streamline basic business functions
  • Advisers need to be careful about complying with surveillance, privacy and confidentiality laws
  • Consent should be obtained from clients if AI transcription tools are used to record meetings

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is revolutionising the way we provide professional services to our clients. In the past 12 months, we have seen an increasing emergence in AI products that can be used to transcribe and summarise meetings. But what does this mean for client confidentiality?

The Role of AI in Meetings

The combination of the post-pandemic rise in online video meetings and the significant advances in the effectiveness of AI transcription has made it easier than ever to record and document client communications through AI.

The use of AI in meetings has made it possible to automate note-taking by capturing audio and video recordings from meetings and automatically transcribing and summarising them.

However, the use of AI to record conversations with clients raises concerns about confidentiality, privacy and ethics.

Do You Need Client Consent?

The laws regarding the recording of conversations differ from state to state. Queensland is governed by The Invasion of Privacy Act 1971 (Qld) (IPA) in relation to the laws regarding the recording of conversations in Queensland.

Contrary to most other Australian Jurisdictions, the IPA states that it is legal for any participant in a private conversation, whether it be in person, via telephone or other electronic communication (including video conferencing such as Zoom, WhatsApp or FaceTime), to record a conversation in Queensland without any knowledge or consent of the other parties to the conversation. It is illegal, however, to publish or distribute a recorded conversation without the consent of the other parties.

In Victoria and New South Wales, it is illegal to record conversations without the consent of the other person. Complexities can therefore arise when conversations are held with clients who are in different states.

At a federal level, recording conversations that occur over the telecommunications network is also illegal. Advisers need to keep this in mind depending on the platform on which client meetings occur.

Should You Obtain Consent Anyway?

Regardless of legality, it may be undesirable – or even unethical – to record client conversations without their knowledge or consent. From a business perspective, secretly recording clients can threaten the required element of trust in the adviser relationship.

For that reason, best practice would suggest that full disclosure of AI tools being used to transcribe conversations should be made to the client. This may include:

  • Inserting specific provisions in engagement terms disclosing the use of AI transcription tools and acknowledging client consent to such recordings and
  • Specifically acknowledging the use of AI transcription tools at the beginning of each meeting.


The client should be made aware, in particular, that the AI technology records, transcribes and stores the entirety of what is said in a meeting. Because of this, it is paramount that clients be given the opportunity at every meeting to opt out of having the conversation recorded.

However, advisers should beware – as clients may be less transparent in disclosing pertinent or sensitive information if they know their entire conversation is being recorded.

What Data Do the AI Platforms Obtain From You?

AI transcription tools take copies of the recorded meeting or conversation in order to convert them to written text, which then raises a number of questions:

  • Are the recordings being stored permanently on their servers?
  • Where are the servers located?
  • Who has access to the recordings and transcriptions?
  • What are the recordings being used for?
  • What security measures are in place?


These questions are particularly important when the recording contains confidential or privileged information. The professional, whether they are a lawyer, accountant, financial planner or other client-facing professional, should carefully review the terms and conditions and privacy policies of the AI providers, and make sure they understand how information is used, stored and kept secure.

Changes will likely need to be made to your practice’s privacy policy to comply with Australian privacy law where the AI platforms store copies of the data (whether temporarily or permanently), and where the AI servers are located outside of Australia.

Accountants should also be wary of the potential for ATO audits to target information held by third-party entities (e.g. AI software providers) – particularly where those third parties retain copies of data.

This begs the question, do the terms of service for AI recording platforms provide adequate protection for confidentiality?

An example of this is the new language of Zoom’s policy, which gives Zoom broad rights to collect user content (video, audio, and text) for use in training AI models. While Zoom claims that content is not used without customer consent, this consent is seen to be automatically given by enabling Zoom’s Team Chat Compose or Meeting Summary.

When it comes to choosing an AI recording product, it is important to avoid AI platforms or products that:

  • Use the entirety of your recordings or transcriptions for training purposes;
  • Retain copies of recordings or transcriptions even after you’ve deleted them; and
  • Don’t take reasonable steps to protect the privacy and confidentiality of your communications.


Confidentiality – Are You Disclosing Sensitive Information to a Third Party?

A significant issue that comes to the surface with the use of AI transcription and recording is confidentiality. This is especially the case when it is not known who is permitted to access the retained data and in what circumstances. These programs generally operate so that individuals are not informed when their data is being accessed.

Because of this, these recordings put client confidentiality at risk where the information collected by the platform is permanently stored on their servers. Ensuring the privacy and security of recorded data is essential to maintaining client trust, though this may be difficult to achieve.

While lawyers are offered some level of security as a result of legal professional privilege, what does this mean for the clients of businesses who don’t have these rights?

Legal professional privilege provides protection from disclosure of communications between a client and their lawyer and enables clients to have protected full and frank discussions with their lawyer. The benefit here is for the client, not the lawyer. However, other client facing professionals, such as accountants and planners, do not have this right.

So, what happens in circumstances where users or AI programming companies are court ordered to hand over recorded data for the purpose of legal proceedings or ATO actions? In Queensland, the Privacy Act provides that legally obtained recordings can be published or distributed without the consent of the parties in some circumstances, including for the purpose of legal proceedings.

Because of this, it is incredibly important when utilising AI transcription and recording technology to consider the following:

  • The context of the meeting to be recorded;
  • Whether the meeting or discussion requires recording at all; and
  • Whether the meeting will contain discussions for which complete, recoverable records of conversations would destroy client confidentiality.


Conclusion

AI recording and transcription improves accuracy, efficiency and transparency while simultaneously raising concerns regarding confidentiality, privacy and ethics.

The issues surrounding the use of AI transcription software demands that practices be put into place for users in order to protect client information as best they can. These practices include:

  • Due diligence when choosing AI tools;
  • Cautiousness in the use of AI to protect confidentiality; and
  • Open disclosure to clients with an option to opt-out.


Overall, while AI transcription tools present potential benefits, it is essential when utilising the programs to have regard to ethical and legal considerations.

This article was developed with the valuable support and insights of Kara Bentley, Solicitor for the firm.

how can mcw help?

Contact our team if you wish to:

  • Discuss the best approach to using AI tools in your practice;
  • Make sure your client data is protected;
  • Understand and obtain advice in relation to legal professional privilege or client confidentiality concerns; and
  • Have us review your engagement terms and privacy policy to ensure compliance with legal requirements.

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