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Privacy Risks – Social Bookmarking on a Medical Library Website?

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If you have been following me on Twitter, you know that I’ve been thinking a lot about the privacy risks of using social networking tools. Of course, if you’ve been following me on Twitter, I doubt that you have too many concerns about your own privacy risks when using these tools. And, if I were truly concerned about my own risks, I wouldn’t use them either; in fact I wouldn’t write this blog post. So, why do I care. Well, it’s not my risks that I’m worried about, but the library users’ risks that concern me. I am working on an academic website that will allow users to create profiles and share their interests … especially their interests in medicine. While the site will mainly be used by researchers, it will also be used by the community. Therefore, an unsuspecting community member could misinterpret the option to share interests as a place to list one’s medical conditions. If this individual also created a profile that was easily identifiable … a photo, a simple user name … then that person’s private medical information could be disclosed to employers, insurers, friends, colleagues, law enforcement, marketers, and anyone else that might used the site and recognize the person.

One solution would be to make it painfully clear to participants that they, by using the site, are exposing themselves to risks … but what are these risks, exactly? And how does one best communicate them to patrons, patients, researchers, and the any other person that might use the networking service?

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Written by Jere

May 7, 2008 at 12:00 am

Posted in Ethics, Libraries

Tagged with ,

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