Privacy and the Open Access Button

Privacy is a key concern to everyone at the Open Access Button, indeed it has sparked a lot of fears and debate within the team from day one. In that sense this is a long overdue blog, as we’re yet to make several simple decisions and safeguards clear. Briefly here I’m going to lay out:

  1. What safeguards are in place to protect privacy
  2. Why we show names and location on the map
  3. How we’ll be changing things in future

I’m going to opt for clarity over entertainment in this blog – so please bear with me.

Privacy Safeguards

  • The Open Access Button will not display your exact location if you share your browser location with us. The location shown is an approximate location where the coordinates given from your browser are rounded off.
  • You are free not to enter your full name, or even an accurate name into the tool.
  • Our data is available for download, however we do not share email addresses or names as part of this.
  • Data can be deleted upon request.

Why we show names and location on the map

During development on the tool, long debates were had around whether or not we should display the names of our users, and to what extent we needed to show their location and other factors. It’s important to understand that one of the tool’s core original functions was as a storytelling device. We want to tell the stories of those affected by being priced out of engaging with research as a form of protest. We wanted our stories to be personal and showcase the global nature of this problem. This reason fundamentally is why we display names and locations. We did try to make it clear that users didn’t need their full name and that all information would be publicly available. After consultation some feel this is far too unclear – and we will be making efforts to make it clearer when signing up that this is the case.

How we’ll be changing things in future

The current version of the tool is purely a Beta, an even more appropriate term would be proof of concept. In the current version of the tool we’ll try to change a few minor aspects to makes things clearer including the wording on our sign-up form and increasing the extent to which locations are approximated.

For the next version of the tool, we have always planned a more extensive set of options for users around how much information they’re willing to display. We would like to implement a sliding system of privacy where users could choose to give away no information publicly, or maybe even at all, to a much more public display. This was the original ambition with the current tool, but the limitations of volunteer development time and our time meant it wasn’t feasible.

Hopefully this will provide a bit more information on this element on the tool. If there are any questions please do contact me at openaccessbutton@medsin.org.

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