Chat Transcripts and User Privacy

We wanted to clarify the policy around AskAway transcripts and user privacy, and put together a short FAQ on the subject.

Can AskAway transcripts be re-sent, at the user’s request?
If a user asks for a transcript to be re-sent, we unfortunately have no way of verifying the identity of the person asking, so re-sending the transcript violates the patron’s privacy.

How could this violate a user’s privacy if we don’t ask for personal details?
The policy was put in place in part to protect students who do ask questions about sensitive topics or who, despite our best efforts, reveal personal or identifying information. Though the majority of the questions do not fall into this category, the seriousness of a violation of a student’s privacy is enough that we’ve opted not to re-send transcripts.

But if the person asking for the transcript knows about the chat session, wouldn’t that identify her? How else could she find out about the details of the session?
There are a couple of ways we could think of that someone could get information about another person’s chat session, and doubtless many others that we are unaware of. A student who leaves a public computer without logging out, or offers her own computer to a classmate could leave information related to her AskAway session available for others to view.

How does AskAway policy fit within post-secondary libraries’ policies?
Many post-secondary libraries have policies about confidentiality between learners and librarians, and AskAway needs a similar policy to fit the expectations of students, librarians, and institutions.

How can we help students who ask for the transcript to be sent again?
Fortunately we can provide for students’ information needs without sending a transcript. If the person asking for the transcript knows the question which was originally asked, and wants to have the same links or names of information resources sent to her, there is no issue with checking the transcript to see which resources were originally recommended, and then passing along those links or resources.

If you notice that this is a repeated issue (e.g., that multiple patrons are reporting that they have not received their transcripts), or have questions or comments, please contact the AskAway Admin Centre.

— Reece, BC ELN

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