Launch of the ELDAH GDPR Wizard – Interview with Walter Scholger
Today, I am talking with Walter Scholger, Institute manager of the Centre for Information Modelling – Austrian Centre for Digital Humanities (ZIM-ACDH), co-chair of DARIAH’s ELDAH Working Group, on the occasion of the launch of the DARIAH ELDAH Consent Form Wizard. Walter is a veteran contributor to DARIAH-EU: among others, he was one of the driving forces behind the “DH Course Registry” and since 2019, he is the Deputy National Coordinator for Austria (CLARIAH-AT). This time we will chat about how ELDAH’s work helps us to navigate through the ethical and legal complexities of arts and humanities scholarship. Or, in other words, how we can do and share our research the right way.
Hi Walter, and thanks for joining us! As it is also put forward in the title, our chat is organized around two important acronyms: ELDAH and GDPR. Let’s start with the first one: what does ELDAH stand for (both literally and conceptually) and why the WG is an especially important asset of DARIAH?
Thanks for having me and ELDAH here in the first place! ELDAH is a Working Group in DARIAH-EU, dealing with “Ethics and Legality in Digital Arts and Humanities”. We have been addressing legal issues in research – especially copyright, licensing and data protection – for almost three years, producing information materials and providing training for colleagues across Europe, and beyond.
There is a pressing need for legal advice among scholars of any domain, and in many cases there are no institutional legal departments nor the project funding necessary to obtain such advice.
Our focus is on explaining seemingly “arcane” legal expressions and processes, and on raising our community’s awareness about legal and, at least equally important, ethical requirements of our work in the Digital Humanities. After all, it is not just about what we have to do, but about how we really should do things. That is also why we have a strong focus on promoting Open Science aspects like Open Access and Open Data and the application of Open Licenses – like Creative Commons – as not just best but ideally only practice in the Digital Humanities.
Thanks a lot! Now we can move on to the second acronym, GDPR. How do you see its impact on research in the arts and humanities? What are the most common data privacy issues in humanities research and what are the biggest challenges around them?
The European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation has certainly had a massive impact on all aspects of the information society, including research and education. There has been a lot of mystification about the various restrictions and obligations it imposes on our work, but in all honesty, I do not think that the changes have been so significant: To begin with, data protection and privacy have always been quite regulated and restrictive across European countries’ legislations. That the protection for the individual has increased even further is actually a good thing, I believe. Furthermore, the GDPR provides a number of exemptions and privileges for research and similar fields of public interest which allow us to reuse and retain lawfully collected personal data under specific circumstances. Again, this brings us back to the question of research ethics and how you should treat your data subjects rather than how you have to treat them.
Having said that, the GDPR certainly requires – and generated – more attention to previously often overlooked issues in academia. For example, every disciplinary or institutional mailing list and newsletter entails certain GDPR regulations like Consent, Data Minimization etcetera. Any academic event – from handling submissions to registrations to advertising the program, to recording and streaming individual contributions or taking pictures at the event itself, requires consent by the participants and a lot of mandatory information by the organizers.
And we haven’t even touched on collecting and processing personal data as part of your research – through interviews, surveys or questionnaires – yet.
How come the idea of the GDPR Wizard? How does it help scholars to put data protection into practice?
The scenarios I mentioned before were identified by the ELDAH Working Group by asking participants at workshops and conferences about their most frequent questions regarding the GDPR.
Since DARIAH-EU has a largely European scope but goes beyond that as well, we saw a strong need in our communities for a “wizard” that guides our colleagues through a number of questions to identify their individual purpose for collecting personal data, and subsequently generates a GDPR-compliant consent form that they can then use for that purpose.
The whole tool has been developed as a cooperation of Digital Humanists and lawyers – especially our developer Norbert Czirjak, our legal expert Pawel Kamocki and my fellow co-chair Vanessa Hannesschläger – to address both the legal necessities and the community demands.
The Consent Form Wizard is an online tool that provides GDPR-compliant forms based on your needs. It also explains some of the most important terms and principles of the GDPR as you go through the form – and it may advise you to seek a professional lawyer if your intended purpose goes beyond the scope of the wizard. It is therefore both a very practical and educational tool – and it is quite useful for colleagues outside the European Union as well, because even if you are not legally obliged to follow the GDPR, it would nonetheless be ethical to do so. For instance, we already heard back from colleagues using the CFW in South Africa.
Thank you for your time, Walter! It has been great to learn from your insight and experience!
You can explore the tool here: https://consent.dariah.eu/ and can learn more about it in the upcoming webinar on the 13rd of October (10-11:30). Register here: https://attendee.gototraining.com/r/2128845136350677506
If you are interested in regular updates about their work, you can follow ELDAH on Twitter here: https://twitter.com/ELDAHdariah
Further, you can watch Walter’s lecture, Copyright and (Open) licensing as part of the ‘Shaping new approaches to data management in arts and humanities’ winter school here: https://campus.dariah.eu/resource/ws2019#session-5
Image source: ELDAH’s blog, CC-BY 4.0.