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One Step Ahead

April 10, 2012, Volume 58, No. 29


Another tip in a series provided by the Offices of Information Systems & Computing and Audit, Compliance & Privacy.

The Virtue of Transparency

Ninety-nine years ago, Louis Brandeis published one of his most famous quotes: “Sunlight is the best disinfectant.” How does this relate to privacy today?

Many activities at Penn involve personal data and are regulated by federal or state law, but abiding by regulations is only part of protecting privacy. New technologies (like smartphones and cloud computing) and new services (like some courseware products), present new privacy issues that may not be covered by existing law. In such cases, consider the power and virtue of transparency.

For example, if recording class lectures or discussion groups, let attendees know in advance, and inform them what the recording will be used for and how publicly (or not) it will be shared. If the material is very sensitive, or the sharing is very public, attendees may voice their concern, which is good to know about and react to early on.

If social media or other information sharing platforms are used in teaching or other Penn functions, be transparent about how. You may get more enthusiasm, more candid participation and an overall better outcome.

Providing clear information in advance about matters that affect privacy can help both identify concerns early and garner more support. Being transparent may not be the only means of protecting privacy, but it is usually a great start.


For additional tips, see the One Step Ahead link on the Information Security website: www.upenn.edu/computing/security/

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