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Unified Communications and Privacy

Protecting your privacy while taking full advantage of Unified Communications is a matter of configuring your account properly.

Unified Communications and Privacy

Unified Communications (UC) at Illinois is a major, campus-wide technological initiative providing email, calendaring, telephony, voice mail, instant messaging and conferencing services in one offering. UC at Illinois improves the technology on which these services are based and provides a substantial reduction in the cost of these services. Two separate pieces of Microsoft software working together: Exchange (email & calendar) and Lync (telephony, conferencing, collaboration, & IM) create the integrated service that is UC at Illinois. This integration allows new possibilities in communications on campus, but requires some forethought and software configuration to properly handle and protect the data created by unified communications.

Protecting your privacy while taking full advantage of Unified Communications is a matter of configuring your account properly. For maximum privacy The Office of Privacy and Information Assurance (OPIA) recommends taking the steps outlined in the UC Recommended Privacy Settings section. A key to maintaining your privacy is to ensure that you, and only you, are deciding what information you save in your UC account. Information past its useful life is always at risk of being accidentally forwarded or shared; cleaning up an inbox that's overflowing with old messages is not only easier to work with, but also helps to protect you from accidental disclosure.

Not every step to protect your privacy is a setting on your computer. Physical security is always important; Unified Communications doesn't alleviate the need for awareness of who and what is around you. When you are talking on the phone and discussing sensitive information, be aware of who is around you, whether it's in a shared office space or while you're working out of the office. Screen privacy filters prevent anyone not sitting directly in front of your computer from reading the text on your screen.

Unified Communications at Illinois is truly unified. Members of other institutions that also use Microsoft's Unified Communications technology have the ability to contact you by instant message, phone, and video. To do this, they will need your email address and you will be prompted to authorize them to reply to their request.

Note All Freedom of Information Act requests are processed through the Office of University Relations. Questions about FOIA should be directed to University Relations at (217) 333-6400. See for background and further information about FOIA.

UC Tools and Privacy Considerations

One of the most common questions asked about UC is whether or not your email, phone, and instant messages are private. There is no central recording of any UC communication. Individual users, however, do have the ability to record phone calls and save instant messaging conversations. There are legal considerations to recording conversations; regardless of these considerations, recording conversations without informing others is inconsiderate and unprofessional. Therefore, we require that a user verbally announce to all participants the recording of a call prior to beginning the recording. The content of any digital communication, in any format (phone, instant message, or email) is private and, if saved, is only stored in individual users' inboxes.


Skip to specific tips on recommended phone settings

  • Lync phone calls are never recorded by CITES, nor does CITES have the ability to 'tap' phone calls: no call can be recovered after the fact if it was not recorded by a Lync user who participated in the call.
  • Voicemail messages are sent as an audio attachment to your UC email. You can choose to disable the text transcription of this message. This is convenient for checking messages while you're out of the office, but holding onto any data longer than you need it is a liability. If you would like to turn off your voicemail transcription, please see the Lync FAQ. You can also turn off the ability for callers to leave voicemail. This is the equivalent of not having an answering machine. If you would like to do this, instructions are available on the Lync FAQ
  • You will receive an email notification when you have a voicemail; the audio file of this voicemail will be stored in your inbox until deleted. If you copy your mail to your computer the voicemail will also be stored there.
  • Individuals using the Windows Lync client can initiate recording a phone call. A visual warning will be displayed to all Lync call participants if another participant initiates a recording. Callers who are not using Lync will receive an audible notification. Before you initiate any recording of a phone call, you should personally announce to all participants that the call is about to be recorded. For more information about recording calls, please see the Lync FAQ
  • The audio files will automatically be stored on the local machine where the recording was initiated.
  • There is a difference between needing to set up privacy settings within your Lync account, and needing a private line in Lync. See the Private Lines page for more details about private lines.
  • The Windows Lync client and IP phones will log your call history. You can disable this if you choose through your Windows Lync Client by clicking on the Options icon -> Personal and then unchecking "Save call logs in my email Conversation History Folder".
  • Lync now offers the ability to connect directly with Skype. To do this you will need to add a Skype user's Microsoft Account (MSA) to your contact list. Skype users will also be able to add Lync users. After sending a request to be added to a users contact list and being approved the Lync and Skype users will be able to communicate using instant messaging, see each other's presence, and initiate audo calls.

Instant Messaging

Skip to specific tips on recommended instant messaging settings

  • Instant messages are encrypted as they travel between computers and are by default stored in individual users' inboxes. Anyone can choose to save IM conversations, so be thoughtful about any information you send during a conversation. Don't discuss anything over instant message that you wouldn't discuss through email.
  • There is no way to centrally disable the ability to save a conversation, but you can control your own IM conversations and how they are handled through setting up your personal preferences through both the options menu in Outlook and in Lync.
  • If you are on a Windows computer, instant messages by default are currently being automatically saved into your Exchange account, in a folder named "conversation history". You can disable this, if you choose through your Windows Lync Client by clicking on the Options icon -> Personal and then unchecking "Save instant message conversations in my email Conversation History Folder".
  • If you are on a Mac there is no way to save your instant message conversations to the server. The first time you close an IM conversation window, Lync will ask if you wish to save the conversation. If you answer "yes" you will be prompted for a location on your local machine to save to. You can choose whether Lync should automatically save conversations, never save conversations, or ask what to do with the conversation each time.
  • Both Lync and Outlook also let you know when you've missed conversations or phone calls. This is configurable by logging into Webmail, Options -> All Options -> Phone -> Notifications -> Send email message to my inbox when I miss a phone call. The setting in Outlook Web Access only affects missed calls, missed IMs are controlled by the same setting as saving IM to outlook option in Windows Lync.
  • Users who prefer not receive and send any instant messages should use an IP phone instead of a software Lync client.


  • You can control how your calendar is shared. The default calendar setting is that everyone across campus can see your free/busy, but you can change these settings so that certain users can have access to your full calendar (except for those things marked private).
  • Marking items as "private" is not a guarantee an appointment item will not be readable to other individuals. If you have granted someone Reviewer permission they may be able to see details of private events. CITES does not have access to see calendars (or any mail folders), unless permissions have been explicitly granted to do so.
  • If you choose to hide your calendar, meaning you grant no calendar access, not even free/busy, no one but you can view the calendar at all. Hiding your calendar means that no one can invite you to meetings or setting anything up on your calendar.
  • All calendar items are stored on the Exchange server, even if you hide your calendar, until you delete the items.
  • When you delete a calendar item it is moved to the Deleted Items folder. Once it is removed from the Deleted Items folder, the calendar item(s) will be permanently deleted off the Exchange server after 30 days.


  • Phone: You can assign one or more delegates to make or receive calls on your behalf.
    • In the Windows Lync main window, click the Options button, click Call Forwarding, click Edit my delegate members, and then, in the Delegates dialog box, click Add.
  • Email and Calendar: You can assign one or more delegates to receive and respond to meeting requests or responses and to send email messages on your behalf. You can also grant additional permissions that allow your delegate to read, create, or have full control over items in your inbox.
  • Note: Mac Lync clients can't assign delegates. Mac users can log into their Lync account through a Windows machine and set up delegates. Those delegate will work and be in place when returning to use the Mac Lync client.

Video conferencing

  • Like regular phone calls, video conferences can be recorded. Always be courteous and let participants know if you are recording a session. There is no central recording of video conferences: no conference can be recovered after the fact if you have not recorded it.


Skip to specific tips on recommended mailbox settings

  • There is no default archiving or deletion of messages in your account. Some email clients have retention policy settings that you can configure to handle archiving or deleting messages that are older than a certain period of time. This feature is available in Outlook for Windows or on Thunderbird (Edit -> Folder Properties -> Retention Policy). Remember that this rule will only work when your email software is open and running on your computer.

Mobile Devices

  • If you lose your phone and don't want other people to read your email you can remotely wipe your email and calendar information if you use ActiveSync on your device. You can do this by logging into Outlook Web App and going to Options -> Phone -> Mobile Phones -> highlight the device you want to wipe -> Wipe Device -> Ok -> Remove Device.


UC Recommended Privacy Settings

CITES Security recommends the following settings to help protect your data and privacy with Unified Communications.


  • Create a rule to move voicemail to a folder. You can do this through the Outlook Web App by following Microsoft's TechNet instructions. OPIA recommends deleting any item in this folder that is older than seven days.
  • Create a rule to delete mail older than x amount of time. This is possible through an auto-delete function in your mail client (Outlook, Thunderbird, Apple Mail). This is a client-side solution and will only run when your mail client is open. Microsoft has steps for archiving older items automatically in Outlook.
  • Don't share personal mailboxes. If multiple people need access to an account, request a resource account that all participants can access.
  • Consider adding this text to your outgoing emails letting people who correspond with you know that your email could be subject to a FOIA request:

    Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act any written communication to or from university employees regarding university business is a public record and may be subject to public disclosure.

Phone calls

  • Know the cues that alert you about recorded phone calls. If you are using the Windows Lync Client, Mac Lync client 14.0.6+ or IP phone, you will receive a visual indication that the call is being recorded by another Lync user.
  • Customize your voicemail greeting, letting callers know that their message could be released as part of a FOIA request. You can also change your voicemail greeting. Consider the following greeting:

    Under the Illinois Freedom of Information Act any written communication to or from university employees regarding university business is a public record and may be subject to public disclosure.

  • Turn off call logs by clicking on the Options icon -> Personal and then unchecking "Save call logs in my email Conversation History Folder".
  • Turn off voicemail transcription. Instructions for changing voicemail settings are found on the Lync FAQ.

Instant messaging

  • Configure Lync to never save instant message conversations. You can disable the default setting that automatically saves instant messages to your Exchange account by clicking on the Options icon through your Windows Lync Client -> Personal and then unchecking "Save instant message conversations in my email Conversation History Folder".

Physical privacy

  • Install a privacy filter on computer screens you use.
  • Don't discuss sensitive information on the phone while others are present.
Last updated Wednesday, July 30, 2014, 2:53 pm