Responsible Remote Access to PCs for Socialization

As interactions move online, remote access to personal computers (e.g. screen sharing, remote control, and annotation) will be a valuable tool to simulate in person interactions. This should be only be done if all parties are completely comfortable with a variety of privacy, autonomy, and safety concerns.

An example of why remote access may be useful

Mary wants to provide feedback on a document/software Sarah is using, but cannot quickly see what Sarah is doing. Sarah can share her screen with Mary so that Mary knows what Sarah is doing. Mary may be able to annotate Sarah’s screen. Remote control should be an option reserved for contexts with high levels of trust and oversight, such as courses, close friends/family, and work.

Responsible screen sharing for a person requesting access to a personal computer

  • Obtain permission if you plan to record portions of the meeting.
  • Ask them to shut down/close material unrelated to the topic before they show their screen.
  • Be very obvious that you are looking away from your computer if the person whose screen you are viewing doesn’t shut off remote access when performing searches, switching screens, or when personal communications (emails/texts/chats) appear.
  • You can often make annotations to highlight sections of or write comments on their screen.
  • Do not ask to control the other person’s computer remotely outside of contexts such as official courses, close friends/family, or work. Remote control requires trust and structures for oversight.

Responsible screen sharing for the person granting access to their personal computer

  • It’s completely acceptable to decline a request to view your screen.
  • Shut down/close items not relevant to the topic before showing your screen.
  • Be careful performing searches or accessing email/chat histories. Ideally, you would turn off remote access before doing so. Alternately, ask the other person to turn away from their computer screen.
  • Do not grant remote control over your computer outside of an official course or another context where there are high levels of trust and oversight.


A student or faculty member accessing your computer should

  •  NEVER ask you to do something on your terminal (on an Apple machine) or your command prompt (on a Windows machine) unless you know how to judge safe usage.

  • NEVER ask you to download any files to your computer that are not part of the public documentation for the interaction.
  • NEVER pressure you to allow them to do something on your computer.

This work was produced by Ella Foster-Molina, Swarthmore College, March 2020. It is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. To view a copy of this license, visit