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Trust and Records in an Increasingly Networked Society

Start Date: 2013-06-04 | End Date: 2018-06-16

Project Description:

Individuals and organizations are increasingly making, storing and accessing records in the highly networked, easily hacked environment of the Internet. People trust banks, phone companies, hospitals, government, etc. to keep and maintain their digital data/records/archives on their behalf. However, where their records actually reside, how well they are being managed, how long they will be available to them... they have no idea! 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. 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. However, big data also fosters a range of democratic objectives, from promoting government transparency to supporting research to contributing to public-private sector goals and priorities.

The issues presented by this scenario are clear: Can the data be trusted? Can the records from which the data are derived be trusted or even traceable? Are they complete? Are they authentic? How were they generated and by whom? How are they stored and under what jurisdiction? Who has access to them? How secure are they? Organizations realize that their data and records holdings are digital assets that need to be managed effectively if they are to be trusted by those making decisions and by clients, customers, citizens, etc.

The goal of this research is to generate the theoretical and methodological frameworks that will support the development of integrated and consistent local, national and international networks of policies, procedures, regulations, standards and legislation concerning digital records entrusted to the Internet, to ensure public trust grounded on evidence of good governance, a strong digital economy, and a persistent digital memory. The focus is on the relationship between organizations (both not-for-profit and for-profit) and given client groups (citizens, customers, readers, students, etc.), with client groups being concerned about the degree of 'trust' they can place on records generated and/or stored and accessed on the Internet and organizations being concerned about establishing and maintaining that trust. The same themes are also addressed within the context of organization to organization and client group to client group relationships. This 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. It will propose law reform, and other infrastructural reform, model policies, procedures, and practices, and functional requirements for the systems in which Internet providers store and manage digital records.

The partnership conducting this research comprises 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, information governance and assurance, digital forensics, computer engineering, and information policy. The empirical knowledge for this research comes from the researchers who are members of the professions having the highest stake in the questions being asked, e.g. law and law enforcement, journalism, records management, finances, health, etc.

Principal Investigator: Dr. Luciana Duranti

Research Assistants(s): Johnty Wang

Funded by:SSHRC