Now that the age of online mediations is upon us, internet security is on the top of everyone’s mind. Safety for mediation participants from threats such as online bullying or stalking is important. So are security of their information, including credit card information used to pay for mediation services, or digital data shared between the parties with their lawyers or mediators. Or what about ensuring confidentiality of the parties’ private talk. The meditation process is supposed to be a confidential one, free from the fear that what one says at a supposed confidential discussion will one day return to haunt them.
A rationale for confidentiality is simple: people will not enter frank discussions and make offers if those offers will later be used against them. The confidential nature of mediation helps parties know that they can speak freely to try to reach agreement and compromise on their differences.
In the traditional in-office mediation model, as long as the parties have 4 walls, and are all present for the meeting, controlling against spying, secret recordings, and uninvented friends, or family is somewhat easy. Once the mediation leaves the traditional walls of the mediator’s office, things become difficult. Virtual or remote mediations require different precautions to protect the integrity of the mediation process.
Some important assurances a mediator hosting a remote mediation should have are:
1. The mediation communications should be encrypted to guard against spies and hackers.
2. The parties should be reminded up to the commencement of the mediation of the strict confidentiality rules that exists, and the consequences for breaking them.
3. Technology preventing recording and screenshotting should be utilized whenever possible to prevent the unauthorized capture of the mediation process.
4. Parties who are remote on laptops or phones should use headphones with microphones when possible to make sure only they are participating in the listening of the discussions.
Mediators should work hard to ensure confidentiality, remembering that while technology offers wide opportunities to reach potential parties who wish to find non-court ways to resolve their legal disputes, the technology also invites unscrupulous individuals with the ability to breach confidential discussions. Mediators should use good technology, and common sense to ward off such threats.