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The Digital Locked File Cabinet: A Problem of Metaphor

Presenter 1
Thomas Lindsay
University of Minnesota
Presenter 2
Kristen Houlton
University of Minnesota

In which I'd like to present on the problem that the standard of respondent data security for researchers has been the locked file cabinet. A simple concept that all researchers understand and adhere to, it continues to be the metaphor for data security in the digital age. But although the locked file cabinet itself is a simple concept, it becomes incredibly difficult to interpret when used as the standard for digital data protection. With recent data privacy laws, each institution's IRB has been given the task of determining on a case-by-case basis whether a researcher's data security plan adheres to this metaphor. Although IRBs are supposed to be both policy and enforcement bodies located in each institution, they are often underfunded, overworked, and ill-equipped to deal with the technical complexities of the research presented. Often IRB proposals are approved or rejected in an inconsistent manner, based on non-technical issues or incorrect understandings. So it falls to data security professionals in each institution to work with the IRB to develop standards for their operations that meet the goals. This talk will look at the many stakeholders and address the needs, desires, and obligations of each, and will explain how the CLA Survey Services at the University of Minnesota developed a standard for interpreting the digital metaphor of the locked file cabinet. We will address the important but delicate position we have found ourselves in as the holders of the data and as the occasional intermediaries between researchers and the IRB.

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