A new grant will explore how much trust we should give to organizations who hold our data
By Jean Kavanagh
People trust banks, phone companies, hospitals, and government to keep and maintain their digital records.
Generally, however, they have no idea where their records actually reside, how well they are being managed, and how long they will be available to them.
Many organizations are becoming concerned about a liability they may not have thought they were assuming. Others are amassing huge volumes of data that they use to provide a host of services, many of which focus on marketing and securing competitive advantage.
The world of big data
This is the world of the so-called ‘big data’, the exploitation of seemingly innocuous records (e.g. purchase orders) to produce data that can be re-manipulated to serve a host of purposes, not always noble.
This week, it was announced that Prof. Luciana Duranti of UBC’s School of Library, Archival and Information Studies will receive $2.5 million to study the relationship of trust between people and the organizations that hold the records related to them on the Internet.
The new funding for InterPARES (International Research on Permanent Authentic Records in Electronic Systems) is her project’s fourth grant from the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) to support research on the reliability, accuracy and authenticity of digital records.
“The research will develop new knowledge on digital records kept on social media and in the cloud, and on methods for identifying and protecting the balance between privacy and access, secrecy and transparency, the right to know and the right to oblivion, in globally connected networks,” she said.
Created in one country, stored in another
Records that are kept on the Internet may physically reside in data centres anywhere around the globe, thereby falling under the jurisdiction of a country different from that of the records creator or owner. Thus, data that belong to Canadian citizens but reside in the U.S. may be accessed under the Patriot Act, she added.
The project will propose law reform, infrastructural reform, model policies, procedures and practices, and functional requirements for the systems in which Internet providers store and manage digital records.
Among its successes to date, InterPARES has developed guidelines for the creation, maintenance, and preservation of digital records, and for the adoption of related file formats, wrappers, and encoding. China has adopted InterPARES authenticity requirements as law.
China has adopted InterPARES authenticity requirements as law.
Duranti notes that her students are sought after by institutions around the world such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the United Nations, the International Red Cross, NATO, UNESCO, the European Commission, and the World Health Organization.
The InterPARES partnership includes over 100 investigators from 30 countries on six continents. They represent universities and organizations, national and multinational, public and private, in North America, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Australasia, and Asia. The academic researchers have expertise in archival science, records management, diplomatics, law, information technology, communication and media, e-commerce, health informatics, cybersecurity, and information policy. Empirical knowledge comes from researchers of the professions having the highest stake in questions being asked, like law and law enforcement, journalism, records management, finances, and health.
Read more about InterPARES projects and products related to digital records.
UBC researchers recieve $3.3M from SSHRC
Prof. Luciana Duranti is among five UBC researchers to receive $3.3 million in new SSHRC partnership grants, the federal government announced at the May 31 launch of Congress, Canada’s social sciences and humanities conference.
UBC’s 2012/13 partnership grant recipients are:
- Prof. Luciana Duranti (School of Library Archival and Information Studies) received $2.5 million to study trust and digital records in a networked society.
- Prof. Harry Nelson (Faculty of Forestry) and post-doctoral candidate Jane Lister (Liu Institute for Global Issues) received $398,600 for a global investigation of illegal timbers in retail supply chains.
- Prof. Shelly Johnson (School of Social Work) received $200,000 to explore a First Nations court: Towards a restorative justice, community-based healing plan
- Prof. Elizabeth Croft (Mechanical Engineering) received $193,732 to study gender and engineering success
Hundreds of UBC research projects will be presented at Congress, which runs June 1-8 at the University of Victoria, organized by the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences.