I think it's helpful to imagine the web, or any other networked location, to be another customer no different than a human customer. Once data is exposed to unregulated customers you can't get it back, be it information on a public finding aid, a preliminary boxlist on an internal share drive, or an index of machine data. If that data is restricted to a reading room customer it should most likely also be restricted to only authorized personnel no matter where they physically reside. This means restricting read access to networked drives, encrypting removable storage devices that leave the building, etc. If anyone works at a place where someone had a laptop stolen containing private information, much less had their networked hacked, you'll understand. If such data is hard to manage even internally then perhaps the collector should question the value of collecting the data in the first place.

Our deed of gift states that only archivists are allowed unregulated access to material during their management between accession and final processing to limit access to potentially sensitive information, accidental or otherwise. I think it is a wise policy to incorporate, among others.


John P. Rees, MA, MLIS
Curator, Archives and Modern Manuscripts
History of Medicine Division, MSC 3819
National Library of Medicine
8600 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20894

-----Original Message-----
From: Encoded Archival Description List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of <Kenneth J Chandler>
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 2:17 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Ethical issues raised by EAD encoding

About fully digitized (or microfilmed) collections:

When fully digitizing or microfilming for publication a collection with
potential privacy issues (such as, the people might still be alive), it is
essential to survey each and every item for problems -- and redact or
exclude from publication the problematic information. Wholesale
digitization and publishing of papers of modern origin without such an
item-level review would pose strong ethical and possibly legal questions.

An example I can think of from my collections are a series about an
educational program in the records of an organization we house. The records
contain the names and addresses of students -- along with frank and
sometimes negative evaluations of their abilities, behavior, living
conditions, and commitment to learning. Some of these students are likely
still alive. If we should choose to publish these records, we would have to
decide whether to exclude the series from publication, or selectively
redact from each page the information that would identify an individual.
The decision of which to do would likely depend on the resultant value of
the body of information left after the redaction.

Kenneth J. Chandler
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House NHS
National Archives for Black Women's History
1318 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20005-3607

                      "Custer, Mark"                                                                                                  
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                      Archival                 Subject:  Re: Ethical issues raised by EAD encoding                                    
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                      <[log in to unmask]>                                                                                                   
                      04/21/2009 12:21                                                                                                
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Michele, that makes perfect sense (and I completely overlooked that since
I’ve yet to use that attribute)!

So, since I’ve never used @audience, it would be easy for me to use it
exclusively for redactions (i.e. “internal”) if so needed.  However, if
someone else is using “internal audience” for something slightly different,
I suppose that that wouldn’t be the case.   But that still leaves questions
in regards to sharing EAD records.  Either way, though, I don’t think that
it would permit you to set an expiration date (unless I’m overlooking yet
another general attribute or simpler solution)?

As for the bigger picture, a processing archivist currently has control
over a finding aid that he/she authors.  They are able to make the decision
about the level of identifiable granularity that they want to provide
(though these decisions are certainly not impartial, or always fully
considered), but there’s a question lingering about whether such a decision
– whether documented or not –  will be upheld after the collection starts
to go online and/or if finding aids begin to incorporate editable features
(for example, by permitting researchers to add their notes).

In the case of fully digitized collections, though, this is simply not a
question anymore, as there will be many items in the collection that
haven’t been fully looked at or comprehended before being made accessible
to many-more-than-before.

This is fascinating from a research/access point of view, but it will
inevitably produce new privacy issues (legal, ethical, and both) that will
need to be addressed.  There is little denying, I’d contend, that a search
engine has the power to re-bestow currency, if only temporarily, to
outdated or even false information.  And, in my opinion, that’s certainly
something that should be considered during this transition.


From: Encoded Archival Description List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
Michele R Combs
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 10:50 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Ethical issues raised by EAD encoding

Or you could just use the “audience” attribute which is available for all
EAD elements.  Surround the name in question with a PERSNAME element, set
the @AUDIENCE to INTERNAL, and make your publishing process create whatever
visible indication you want – a blank, a black bar, the word [name
redacted], whatever.


(be green - don't print this email!)
Michele Combs
Manuscripts Librarian
Special Collections Research Center
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Ave.
Syracuse, NY  13244
[log in to unmask]

From: Encoded Archival Description List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of
Custer, Mark
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 10:35 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: Ethical issues raised by EAD encoding

This, of course, led me to wonder if EAD should have a redacted tag (or