[Eril-l] virtual reference and confidentiality, privacy and "creepy" factor

Melissa Belvadi mbelvadi at upei.ca
Tue Nov 28 11:39:35 PST 2017


We use libraryh3lp as our virtual reference service platform.
A feature of it is that it provides to the "operator" the URL that the user
was on at the point that they started the chat session. As it happens, if
you put that chat box within, for instance, the EBSCOhost or EDS platforms,
that URL has encoded in it the user's last search strategy.

I had a patron use that chat box to ask a question about our hours. I
happened to notice the URL and could tell that they were surely getting
unsatisfactory results, so after answering their question, I noted that I
could see their keywords and perhaps could offer some help in creating a
better search. This particular patron was happy for the help, but when I
told my colleagues about this interaction, there was quite a discussion
about the "creepiness" aspect and that led to more discussion about our
lack of an explicit privacy policy.  In this discussion, our head of
instruction noted that when she shows classes the chat service, she often
gets a question to the effect "can you tell who I am?" which of course has
a difficult answer involving IP address traceability (but which she does
NOT go into but just tells them basically "no").

So I am wondering if any of you could share your thoughts: if you have any
kind of formal policies or web page/documents relating confidentiality in
virtual reference service, explaining what their expectations of privacy
should be, what you can and can't see about them when they use it, or
anything else you can think of that relates to this.

Thanks for sharing!

Melissa Belvadi
Collections Librarian
University of Prince Edward Island
mbelvadi at upei.ca 902-566-0581
my public calendar
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