It certainly does raise a host of privacy issues (and, though, something like Facebook certainly does too, we’re certainly not at a network level of involvement that has opt-out options), so I would assume that most actions taken, up until this point, have been in the category of “removal upon request”.


This February, the Southern Historical Collections at UNC hosted a symposium that was titled “The Legal and Ethical Implications of Large-Scale Digitization of Manuscript Collections.”  Though the majority of discussion focused on the ethical implications of making fully digitized collections available online, there was also some interesting discussion that centered around the finding aids as well.  If I remember correctly, someone there mentioned that they even occasionally redact names in the finding aid in the following manner:


W####### S######


This, of course, led me to wonder if EAD should have a redacted tag (or attribute).  One possible approach to this, if so, would be to replace all elements in a finding aid that needed protection with an empty redacted tag in a surrogate EAD file (the master file, that wouldn’t be harvestable or used for transformation, would remain redaction free, since all redactions should be reversible).  A stylesheet could then transform the surrogate EAD file, mimicking paper-based redactions with blacked-out styling.  And, if everything was in some sort of nice management system, the master file could replace the surrogate file once all of the redactions in that collection reached their expiration date.



Mark Custer




From: Encoded Archival Description List [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Elizabeth H Dow
Sent: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 9:37 AM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Ethical issues raised by EAD encoding


Good morning,

    A few years ago, when I encoded finding aids at the University of Vermont, I became aware that putting inventories on the web had the potential for raising privacy issues to a new level. It's one thing to indicate in a paper finding aid that will sit in a notebook on a shelf of an institution that's open 45 hours a week that one has a list of political donors to a contentious political campaign or a list of participants in a radical theater production or old personnel records for a still-active business, and to announce that information on the web for -- literally -- the world to see and make of it as it will.

    Has anyone else played with this reality as it relates to our professional commitment to protecting third-party privacy? Has anyone experienced unexpected ethical ramifications of having their inventories online?

    I now teach EAD and, having covered the technical issues for the semester, want to expand students' thinking about the non-technical issues related to EAD.

     Thanks in advance for any pithy thoughts and/or case examples.

Elizabeth H. Dow
Associate Professor
School of Library and Information Science
Louisiana State University