Best way to keep contact info confidential

Discussions around using and interfacing with the Church MLS program.
greggo
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Best way to keep contact info confidential

Postby greggo » Tue Jul 15, 2008 8:45 am

I'm sure my ward is not unusual in that we have some members who want to keep their contact information confidential and therefore off of "publicly" distributed" ward lists and the unit website.

I'm opposed to deleting the information entirely from MLS (and only keeping it in a separate document/file), as there will no longer be an official record of the information (in case the separate document is misplaced).

Does anyone have a good suggestion on how to handle this, or is there a way in MLS to flag information as "confidential" and therefore only allow it to show up on restricted lists, etc?

My first idea was to only put the word "Confidential" in the address fields and store the confidential information in the mailing address fields. But if someone ever wants to print address labels, this would have the opposite effect to what the member intended.

Any ideas?

RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Tue Jul 15, 2008 9:43 am

Greggo wrote:I'm sure my ward is not unusual in that we have some members who want to keep their contact information confidential and therefore off of "publicly" distributed" ward lists and the unit website.


The MLS list and the LUWS web site are two different critters.

For the web site, there is an administrative function to suppress a member from the published directory.

But AFAIK, there is no flag field within MLS to suppress anyone from the MLS-generated ward directories, reports, export files, etc. Apparently different wards develop their bishopric policies and their own ad hoc, manual methods of handling this. It does seem that if this is a genuine requirement, such a flag should have been included in MLS.

I am definitely opposed to abusing the existing fields. Address fields, phone-number fields, email fields, etc, should contain exactly what they are labeled to contain, and not extraneous comments. Clerks should not write in "Confidential," "Do Not Contact," "Inactive," "Grumpy old man," "big white house at the end of the road," or any other spurious remarks.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Tue Jul 15, 2008 11:00 am

boomerbubba wrote:I am definitely opposed to abusing the existing fields. Address fields, phone-number fields, email fields, etc, should contain exactly what they are labeled to contain, and not extraneous comments. Clerks should not write in "Confidential," "Do Not Contact," "Inactive," "Grumpy old man," "big white house at the end of the road," or any other spurious remarks.


In theory, I agree with you. But in practice, given what we have, it's the best solution in some cases. For example "unlisted" in a phone number field distinguishes between "we don't know - please let us know this person's number" and "we know, but we can't distribute it".

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Postby RossEvans » Wed Jul 16, 2008 7:22 am

RussellHltn wrote:In theory, I agree with you. But in practice, given what we have, it's the best solution in some cases. For example "unlisted" in a phone number field distinguishes between "we don't know - please let us know this person's number" and "we know, but we can't distribute it".


In that example, you are basically suggesting the use of MLS for the clerks to make notes to themselves. I think that is not good practice. They can make their notes privately. And the "unlisted but known" phone number is suppressed from everyone, even the bishop.

We apparently do agree that the optimal solution is one or more flag fields in MLS, which could have the effect of suppressing contact information gracefully in general-distribution directories. But I don't think that suppression should apply to most MLS reports for ward leaders and members for conducting church business. For example, it makes no sense to receive a set of home-teaching assignments that says, "There is another family you are assigned, but we can't tell you who they are, or at least how to find them. It is confidential."

Without such a flag field in MLS, I can think of three manual workarounds for Greggo's problem:

1) For the printed ward directory reports, use a bottle of Wite-Out

2) Configure a custom report in MLS to exclude the sensitive members.

3) Instead of printing the directory report directly, save it in a .csv file, or use an export file. Edit out the data in question, then format and print your directory from that file in external software.

None of these options is very elegant or efficient. But apparently there is a perceived need out there for such suppression. I got enough feedback here over suppressing familiies in a custom mapping application I built that I felt obliged to add such functionality. See discussion preceding this post: http://tech.lds.org/forum/showpost.php?p=13642&postcount=67 But I applied that suppression only to the overall ward map files intended for general distribution (basically the ward directory on a map). I deliberately did not apply it to home-teaching and visiting-teaching maps.

russellhltn
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Postby russellhltn » Wed Jul 16, 2008 11:41 am

boomerbubba wrote:In that example, you are basically suggesting the use of MLS for the clerks to make notes to themselves.


I wouldn't call it a note to the clerk. It tells the membership the status of the number. It communicates why it's not there and it communicates what members who do have that number should do (be careful about who they hand it out to).

Bottom line there's two solutions:

1) You put the information in MLS, but then have to manually edit it or create special reports for all of the standard reports.

2) Don't put it in MLS and pass the information privately to those who need it.

The choice made depends on how tightly the information needs to be controlled. If the information is to only be suppressed from the general ward directory passed out to the masses, then option #1 is best. But if the member wants their information restricted to the Bishop and maybe the EQ president, then option #2 is best as it's impractical to do that every time something is printed or exported.


We agree the optimal solution is for added features to MLS to achieve what's needed.

RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Wed Jul 16, 2008 2:26 pm

RussellHltn wrote:I wouldn't call it a note to the clerk. It tells the membership the status of the number. It communicates why it's not there and it communicates what members who do have that number should do (be careful about who they hand it out to).


I won't argue the point too far, because your rationale sounds reasonable and harmless. And we both agree that the MLS applications should faciliate an explict flag for such conditions. If the designers choose to implement a business rule (a hypothetical church policy) that explictly flags and communicates that a phone number is "Unlisted," then that is well and good. Build it into MLS.

But I disagree that the general principle guiding the clerk, if he also is frustrated with MLS functionality, should be to insert free-form comments into text fields if the information seems subjectively useful to communicate.

That is a very slippery slope, and soon can lead to egregiously inappropriate comments that some well-meaning but ill-trained clerk thinks it would be useful to communicate. To many, it might seem useful to communicate the "status of the number" as "Do Not Contact," which is undoubtedly useful in some contexts for members to know. However, it is not church policy.

And in the case at hand, inserting "Unlisted" in the contact field in lieu of the actual data is precisely what Greggo says he wants to avoid because the real data is not retained in MLS.

If and when MLS ever is enhanced with some suppression capability, I think the complex hypothetical you pose -- restrict only to bishop and EQ president -- is way too much granularity to ask of the system. I know of no church policy that obliges MLS to support such a thing.

I can certainly envision drawing a line between the general-distribution ward directory and most every other report, but people just have to expect that if their contact information is in the system, it will be available to everyone who uses MLS for church business -- which is all it is supposed to be used for. So if the info is in the database, then members must understand that it will be shared routinely with everyone from the bishopric to home teachers, Primary teachers, choir directors, scout leaders, Activities Committee chairs, etc. That is, just about everyone who might get a report out of MLS to support their callings. If someone is too sensitive to allow that, then an option to suppress the information from all reports without administrative access might be called for. The contact information then would be available only for emergencies.

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Suggestion to use custom member data fields.

Postby rmrichesjr » Wed Jul 16, 2008 8:52 pm

In another thread on a different topic, someone suggested that MLS allows creation of custom member data fields. These fields could be printed using cusom reports that reference them. Presumably, these fields would not show up in the standard reports, because the standard reports have no place to print them. It would seem that for at least some levels of need for confidentiality of phone number (or perhaps address), a custom field could be created to hold the actual data and "unlisted" or something similar (as has been mentioned) put in the standard field. An MLS user could go hunting and find the information, but it won't be generally seen by those who just do what they need to do in MLS.

greggo
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Postby greggo » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:45 am

Thanks for the feedback. I'll review everyone's suggestions and discuss with the Bishop the best way to handle.

For now we have a request from only one member for confidentiality, but if our HT/VT efforts increase as directed, I aticipate more in the future. It could be that the preferred method is not the same in every case.

scion-p40
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Postby scion-p40 » Thu Jul 17, 2008 6:45 pm

Unlisted or private tags should be on reports printed for the general members. In the course of my calling, I just spent significant time trying to locate a member with nothing listed in the phone space. When I took the info to my HPGL, he informed me that he knew how to reach the member. I have no desire to know what or why, but would prefer to have done something else with my time.

What to do in emergencies also needs to be addressed.

RossEvans
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Postby RossEvans » Thu Jul 17, 2008 7:02 pm

scion wrote:Unlisted or private tags should be on reports printed for the general members. In the course of my calling, I just spent significant time trying to locate a member with nothing listed in the phone space. When I took the info to my HPGL, he informed me that he knew how to reach the member. I have no desire to know what or why, but would prefer to have done something else with my time.


All the more reason to have explicit, programmed flags in the MLS system, not ad hoc comments keyed in free-form by clerks.

If I just saw "Unlisted" listed in a report, I would have no idea that was really code for "Ask the HPGL." To me, it just means the person has an unlisted phone number. And the phrase chosen by one clerk might not be the same as that chosen by another, even in the same ward.


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