"Ward List" iPhone App

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Mr.Intel-p40
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"Ward List" iPhone App

Postby Mr.Intel-p40 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:47 pm

There is a new applicationin the Apple app store that has caused me some concern which I'd like some input on from the LDS tech community. It claimsto allow Bishoprics to upload the data from MLS to their server for use by members of the ward that have the unit number and password (set by the Bishopric). They claim to have addressed matters like security, but this goes beyond carrying ward list information on a PDA (which is widespread) to having information, including membership numbers, birthdays, etc, uploaded to a third-party website. My question/concern is that many wards are implementing this, because of its utility, but are putting at risk the information of many members in the church.

I'm asking because our Bishop wants to implement this and asked me (as his counselor) what I thought of it. I told him that I wanted to get more information from the company, and sent an email. However, the biggest question isn't how secure they make the data, but is it correct practice to upload MLS information to their database server?

I can imagine what the church would say about it, but I wonder if there is already a policy in place.

--Michael

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Postby jdlessley » Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:28 pm

In the Security section of the Policy and Guidelines for Computers Used by Clerks for Church Record Keeping it states:
Information stored on computers concerning members, donations, and financial transactions is confidential and should be protected from unauthorized disclosure.
The Church Handbook of Instructions (CHI), book1, p 150, states the policy on confidentiality of records.

In post #8 of the Ward Mapsthread in the Unit Web Sitesforum, Tom Welch, the Technology Community Manager for the Church, responded with information that is very similar to what you are asking.

Based on the discussions in several threads where member privacy information is beyond the control of the Church, such as storage on a third party server, the best course of action is to not use MLS data for what you describe.

For further guidance consult with your stake president.
JD Lessley
Have you tried finding your answer on the LDS.org Help Center page or the LDSTech wiki?

Mr.Intel-p40
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Postby Mr.Intel-p40 » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:05 am

jdlessley wrote:Based on the discussions in several threads where member privacy information is beyond the control of the Church, such as storage on a third party server, the best course of action is to not use MLS data for what you describe.


It sounds like from these discussions that this particular utility should not be used because it uploads ward member data to a third-party server. There are several utilities that create local HTML files that are similar, but because they are kept local to the units, they are approved for use.

The next question is, should someone from the church contact the makers of this app and ask them to discontinue marketing this product? I know that there are many units who are using it already.

Thank you for the links to the appropriate policies.

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Postby WelchTC » Mon Mar 16, 2009 7:44 am

Mr.Intel wrote:It sounds like from these discussions that this particular utility should not be used because it uploads ward member data to a third-party server. There are several utilities that create local HTML files that are similar, but because they are kept local to the units, they are approved for use.

The next question is, should someone from the church contact the makers of this app and ask them to discontinue marketing this product? I know that there are many units who are using it already.

Thank you for the links to the appropriate policies.

We will contact the developer about this.

MLS provides an export of data for those authorized to use on their personal devices (PC's, PDA, etc.) for official Church work only. That data is to be kept secure at all times. However the Church does not approve of uploading that data to a non-church site, no matter how secure it is. There may be privacy laws that may inadvertantly be violated.

Tom

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Postby njpomeroy » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:07 am

It may be worth pointing out that the reason why these kinds of applications keep popping up is that the existing export model is not meeting many people's needs.

If the the demand for things like this were satisfied by the existing authorized Church solution, the Church wouldn't have to play "whack-a-mole" with every one of these projects as they pop up.

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Postby aebrown » Mon Mar 16, 2009 10:34 am

njpomeroy wrote:It may be worth pointing out that the reason why these kinds of applications keep popping up is that the existing export model is not meeting many people's needs.

If the the demand for things like this were satisfied by the existing authorized Church solution, the Church wouldn't have to play "whack-a-mole" with every one of these projects as they pop up.


I don't think the issue is the export model -- these applications are using the exports from MLS, and independent developers are doing some cool things with that data.

Rather, the issue is taking proper security and privacy precautions with this exported data. That's why the Church is so concerned (rightly so, in my opinion) about anyone uploading this data to any third-party servers. But on a properly secured Church-owned administrative computer there is no problem running applications that do not communicate that data over the Internet.

The Church will never be able to satisfy all the requests for features and applications. One of the main reasons for this site and the companion wiki is to collaborate on the development of applications that extend the Church's software offerings, and to discuss other independent efforts. But all these efforts need to take care to preserve security and privacy of confidential membership data.

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Postby mkmurray » Mon Mar 16, 2009 11:02 am

I also believe that the Church would like to see a number of common administrative Church tasks and duties brought to the web somehow. In my opinion, this would begin to make MLS exports unnecessary as there are so many ways to access the web from a mobile device now.
Many questions are already answered on the LDSTech wiki. Check it out!

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Postby jbh001 » Tue Mar 17, 2009 6:26 pm

On one hand, as an iPhone owner I don't see the need for such an app since I regularly access my ward's directory via iPhone's Safari and the LUWS.

On the other hand, the usefulness of the LUWS could definitely be enhanced to be less obtuse and to provide more useful features, not only for iPhone users, but for other Internet users as well.

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Postby Mr.Intel-p40 » Sat Mar 21, 2009 6:02 pm

jbh001 wrote:On one hand, as an iPhone owner I don't see the need for such an app since I regularly access my ward's directory via iPhone's Safari and the LUWS.

On the other hand, the usefulness of the LUWS could definitely be enhanced to be less obtuse and to provide more useful features, not only for iPhone users, but for other Internet users as well.


As an iPhone user, who is consistently asked for members phone numbers from other members, and is part of a highly dynamic ward, having access to an "update on demand" database is highly useful. Safari is great and all, but it takes on the short end two minutes to login to the church's website, and start browsing the membership lists.... and that's on wireless. 3G is about five minutes, and EDGE is 'forget about it'.

There are also other needs, too. Bishoprics and other ward leaders need to have access to home and visiting teaching routes, stake leadership information, and more. Having this information always with you is beneficial like having the internet is beneficial to family history work.

The issue isn't that the church is holding out on the increasingly tech-savvy members. The issue is that there is a way for members to change "the way things have always been done" to better and more efficient methods without making sure to safeguard the data like the church does.

As an aside, there is a new app called "iWard" that allows members to import data from the LUWS with their individual logins. As far as I can tell, the data is sent over the internet just as if it were coming into a browser, only stored on the iPhone for later use. [Editor's note by Alan_Brown: Any discussion of iWard should be continued on the "iWard" iPhone App thread).]

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Postby jdlessley » Sat Mar 21, 2009 7:27 pm

Mr.Intel wrote:The issue isn't that the church is holding out on the increasingly tech-savvy members. The issue is that there is a way for members to change "the way things have always been done" to better and more efficient methods without making sure to safeguard the data like the church does.
The Church does the things the way they do to make sure the data is safeguarded. Using any personal privacy data without regard to securing it exposes the user and the Church to legal action.

I am all for more efficient ways of accessing data - even ward and stake membership directories. Using any application that gets the membership information from the LUWS still obligates the user of that data to protect that data in accordance with Church policies.
JD Lessley
Have you tried finding your answer on the LDS.org Help Center page or the LDSTech wiki?


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