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[liberationtech] Research project on privacy and encryption

Oltmann, Shannon M shannon.oltmann at uky.edu
Mon Mar 21 11:46:42 PDT 2016


Good questions for discussion! First, I believe the overwhelming majority of qualitative social science research that is conducted is of little to no interest to the FBI--in particular, the FBI may be interested in the results from the occasional social science research project, but rarely would they be interested enough to want access to the original data (such as audio files or transcripts), rather than the summaries provided in, say, an academic article. Second, I and most researchers that I know of, take precautions to make original data much less useful to potential law enforcement interest. For example, I explicitly de-link audio files from the names of those I interview, creating a stand-alone audio file that is impossible to link to an individual. The audio files get encrypted and assigned a code name, then later a pseudonym. In addition, people can give me a pseudonym before the interview, so that their real name is not even in my email files. Third, I'm willing to defy an order from the FBI to turn over files--and I think many researchers would do similarly. 

At the same time, I'm well aware that this is an imperfect approach and outlook. I'm very interested in hearing from others, especially if anyone has a different (perhaps more systematic?) approach. In the minds of other readers, are there additional steps I can/should take? Thanks in advance for any input. 


-Shannon Oltmann




Dr. Shannon M. Oltmann
Assistant Professor
School of Information Science
College of Communication & Information
University of Kentucky
shannon.oltmann at uky.edu
320 Lucille Little Library 
Lexington KY 40506
859-257-0788
859-257-4205 (fax)

-----Original Message-----
From: Joseph Lorenzo Hall [mailto:joe at cdt.org] 
Sent: Monday, March 21, 2016 10:02 AM
To: liberationtech
Cc: Oltmann, Shannon M
Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Research project on privacy and encryption

Hi,

Having done (and hoping to do more!) qualitative interview research in the past, I wonder if researchers like Prof. Oltmann are concerned about the FBI recently subpoenaing research data sets for investigations/prosecutions. While there may not be much of interest to the FBI in any given study such as this, I'm wondering if researchers are starting to factor in the FBI into their data collection and analysis protocols. For medical studies funded by NIH, there are Certificates of Confidentiality ( https://grants.nih.gov/grants/policy/coc/index.htm ) that can prevent subpoenaing of data, but I know non-medical research cannot obtain those kinds of protections.

Anyway, not that anything in this particular study prompted this, just a slew of growing concerns from me and wondering if anyone on libtech has heard of more coordinated, coherent approaches to doing research with data that may be subject to subpoena.

best, Joe

On Sun, Mar 20, 2016 at 1:51 PM, Yosem Companys <companys at stanford.edu> wrote:
> From: Shannon M Oltmann <shannon.oltmann at uky.edu>
>
> Hello! I am conducting a new research project, interviewing people who 
> use encryption for personal (non-work related) use. Please read more 
> about the project below and contact me if interested in participating. 
> Thanks for your time.
>
> You are invited to take part in a research study about the use of 
> encryption for hard drives and/or email.
>
> The purpose of this study is to find out more about reasons people use 
> encryption and to better understand all perspectives. Although you 
> will not get personal benefit from taking part in this research study, 
> your responses may help us understand more about why people use 
> encryption and about different perspectives.
>
> I would like to interview you about your perspective.
>
> I hope to complete approximately 50 interviews, so your answers are 
> important to me. Of course, you have a choice about whether or not to 
> complete the interview, but if you do participate, you are free to 
> skip any questions or discontinue at any time.
>
> The interview will last 30-45 minutes. It will be performed over the 
> telephone unless you request another format. With your permission, the 
> interview will be audio recorded and later transcribed for analysis. 
> Both the audio and the transcription will be stored in a locked filing 
> cabinet or on an encrypted drive. There are no known risks beyond what 
> is experienced in everyday life to participating in this study. Your 
> response to the survey will be kept confidential to the extent allowed 
> by law. When I write about the study you will not be identified.
>
> Before you decide whether to accept this invitation to take part in 
> the study, please ask any questions that might come to mind now. If 
> you have questions about the study, please feel free to ask; my 
> contact information is given below.
>
> Thank you in advance for your assistance with this important project.
>
> Dr. Shannon M. Oltmann
> Assistant Professor
> School of Information Science
> University of Kentucky
> shannon.oltmann at uky.edu
>
>
> --
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--
Joseph Lorenzo Hall
Chief Technologist, Center for Democracy & Technology [https://www.cdt.org]
e: joe at cdt.org, p: 202.407.8825, pgp: https://josephhall.org/gpg-key
Fingerprint: 3CA2 8D7B 9F6D DBD3 4B10  1607 5F86 6987 40A9 A871

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