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Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 10:46 am
by RossEvans
atticusewig wrote:
russellhltn wrote:4.9.3 The use of MLS data and membership information in third party software is prohibited, whether obtained from within or outside of a meetinghouse.


That is going to be one tough policy to enforce. I've seen so many spreadsheets used by
wards for membership issues that it's hard to believe units are going to stop using them
altogether. Wonder if a privacy breach (or court case) prompted the policy change.


The general scope of that policy has not changed. It still applies only to meetinghouse computers "unless otherwise stated," so there is still nothing that regulates software on leaders' personal computers. And on meetinghouse computers, the term "third-party software" continues to be expressly defined in that context -- "any computer software program that was not created by the Church or is not approved for use on Church computers." A separate RKATS provision defining what is allowed on Church computers is quite open-ended, and obviously allows spreadseets. So using membership data in local spreadsheets, either on Church computers or personal computers, is not prohibited per se.

However, it is not the "third-party software" provision that really governs the Google Maps example described in recent thread comments here. That example is clearly "storing ... membership-related information" in "cloud-based services," which is prohibited by Section 4.9.4. That section has not changed, either, since it was promulgated in January 2014.

That provision about the cloud, I think, will substantially curb many practices adopted by local units, such as spreadsheets on Google Drive (aka Google Docs), as this provision becomes better known.

As for non-cloud mapping applications -- such as Google Earth opening local KML files, or any PC-based GIS software, etc. -- I see nothing in the policy preventing their use.

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 12:23 pm
by russellhltn
RossEvans wrote:The general scope of that policy has not changed. It still applies only to meetinghouse computers "unless otherwise stated," so there is still nothing that regulates software on leaders' personal computers.

This does not regulate what software can be on personal computers, but does regulate what can be used to handle church data.

To strongly limit what can be done with data on the church computer while giving free reign on personal computers makes no sense. I disagree with your interpretation.

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sat Jun 28, 2014 2:16 pm
by RossEvans
russellhltn wrote:
RossEvans wrote:The general scope of that policy has not changed. It still applies only to meetinghouse computers "unless otherwise stated," so there is still nothing that regulates software on leaders' personal computers.

This does not regulate what software can be on personal computers, but does regulate what can be used to handle church data.

To strongly limit what can be done with data on the church computer while giving free reign on personal computers makes no sense. I disagree with your interpretation.


It's not my interpretation. It is the express language of the document.

Section 2 of the document defines its scope to cover meetinghouses "unless otherwise stated." It does not say, "unless otherwise speculated or inferred in forum comments" or "unless it 'makes no sense' to a Community Administrator on the LDS Tech Forum."

When the authors chose to expand the scope to include "cloud-based services," they did so explicitly. (Wherever the "cloud" is, it surely does not reside in the meetinghouse computer, so this expanded scope is otherwise stated within Section 4.9.4.) But there is not a scrap of language within Section 4.9.3 (the "third-part software" section) any other section of the document that makes it applicable to leaders' personal computers. It would only have taken a few words to expand the scope that way, but there is no such language.

So I will follow the actual language of the official document, not whatever policy we think the Church should have written so that it "makes sense" in forum folklore.

BTW, even on Church computers I don't agree that the Meetinghouse Technology Policy "strongly limits" what can be installed to handle membership data, as you sweepingly claim. The phrase "third-party software" is expressly defined as a term of art within the policy document (Section 3.11), so the provision of Section 4.9.3 only prohibits storing membership data in software "not approved for use on Church computers." But the Church policy of what is approved is published elsewhere in RKATS, and that policy says (my boldface emphasis):

When it comes to third-party software, the Church recommends using free software applications like OpenOffice when possible to keep costs down and to reduce the burden of keeping license agreement records. There is no prohibition against purchasing third-party applications or receiving donations of software, as long as the unit adheres to the license agreements and keeps physical copies of the license certificates in the clerk’s office. In the case of donated software, the donor must provide the software license certificate and confirmation that they have either uninstalled the software from or have never installed it on other computers.

When purchasing software, copies of the proof of purchase must be emailed to ITAssetManagement@ldschurch.org. Please include the unit number where the software will be used and the contact information of the individual who purchased it.

The software products listed below are optional, but have been used by many clerks. These products are free and do not require licenses. Other software products may be used as long as the guidelines above are followed.


That allows just about any software used for a gospel-related purpose, so long as it is properly licensed. That is really more permissive than the older policy that required stake presidents to approve each application installed.

The only major provision of the 2014 Meetinghouse Technology Policy that really does cut deeply into what units have been doing with membership data is Section 4.9.4 forbidding us to store this content in "cloud-based services." (There are a lot of Google Docs spreadsheets out there that are probably coloring outside the lines.) As far as the Google Maps Engine example being discussed in this thread, that provision is all we need to understand that it is out of bounds. Not because there is "third-party software" involved, but because "cloud-based services" are used.

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 2:59 am
by russellhltn
There are three parts to this: What CHQ intended, the document they created, and how it's interpreted by local leaders. The last part depends on the individual leader's bias with regard to gray areas. Some avoid anything remotely gray. Others seem fine with darker shades.

As far as interpretations go, yours is no more authoritative then mine outside of our respective stakes.

If I understand your view of third party software, it is any that hasn't been properly licensed. But if that's the case, then why did CHQ add that paragraph about not putting information into third party software? Particularly if it's not supposed to be installed on a meetinghouse computer in the first place? The policy was updated less then 48 hours ago. So we may see/hear about this in the coming weeks. The prohibition on cloud services was there previously.

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 3:56 am
by RossEvans
russellhltn wrote:If I understand your view of third party software, it is any that hasn't been properly licensed.


That is not my "view." That is the plain language of the formal definition of the term "third party software" within the Meetinghouse Technology Policy, read in conjunction with the RKATS article from which I quoted.
russellhltn wrote:But if that's the case, then why did CHQ add that paragraph about not putting information into third party software? Particularly if it's not supposed to be installed on a meetinghouse computer in the first place?

I can only know for sure what I read. As for your speculative question, apparently they did not want to compound the harm of installing pirated software with the harm of using it to load Church membership information. (Not much chance of importing Church finance information, since that cannot be exported from MLS in the first place.) I certainly have no reason to think they intended to include your own private, expansive meaning of "third party software" when they wrote a clear definition into the policy.

I might just as well ask speculatively why leaders would be allowed to export membership data as CSV files from MLS and lds.org if they are not allowed to use it in software.
russellhltn wrote:The policy was updated less then 48 hours ago. So we may see/hear about this in the coming weeks. The prohibition on cloud services was there previously.

The recent change to the policy affected where membership data came from, not where it could be stored.

If we do see more changes in the coming weeks, I will follow any updates in the policy. Meanwhile, I have no reason to follow forum folklore expanding the current policy.

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 5:36 am
by aebrown
RossEvans wrote:And on meetinghouse computers, the term "third-party software" continues to be expressly defined in that context -- "any computer software program that was not created by the Church or is not approved for use on Church computers." A separate RKATS provision defining what is allowed on Church computers is quite open-ended, and obviously allows spreadseets. So using membership data in local spreadsheets, either on Church computers or personal computers, is not prohibited per se.

The express language of section 3.11 that you quoted above uses the word "or". So it is quite clear from the policy document itself that the term "Third-Party software" includes even properly licensed software installed on the meetinghouse computer. The fact that a separate RKATS document (one not listed as "Policy") includes a conflicting reference to third party software doesn't change the express language of the actual policy. So looking at the policy document itself, the provisions of 4.9.3 would apply to any computer software program not created by the Church.

Of course local leaders will need to make the specific decisions, and work out those conflicts. But there is an argument that actual policy trumps a separate non-policy document. It's also entirely possible that the policy document is indeed self-consistent, but happens to use one definition of third party software for purposes of explaining what can be done with membership data, whereas the non-policy document uses a different definition of third party software for purposes of explaining what software can be put on a meetinghouse computer, which of course can be used for many purposes that do not include membership data.

Just some thoughts to consider....

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 12:25 pm
by RossEvans
aebrown wrote:The express language of section 3.11 that you quoted above uses the word "or". So it is quite clear from the policy document itself that the term "Third-Party software" includes even properly licensed software installed on the meetinghouse computer. The fact that a separate RKATS document (one not listed as "Policy") includes a conflicting reference to third party software doesn't change the express language of the actual policy. So looking at the policy document itself, the provisions of 4.9.3 would apply to any computer software program not created by the Church.


I don't think there is any conflict at all between the two policy documents, both of which are are published under the RKATS site hierarchy.

Within Section 4.9.3 of the Meetinghouse Technology Policy, the use of "third-party software" for membership data is prohibited. And what does that mean? It is explicitly defined within the Meetinghouse Technology Policy definitions section:

Any computer software program that was not created by the Church or is not approved for use on Church computers.


And what software is or is not "approved for use on Church computers?" For that, we must turn elsewhere in RKATS to the only current policy document we have that addresses that issue squarely. It states:

Office software not provided by default on Church computers

When it comes to third-party software, the Church recommends using free software applications like OpenOffice when possible to keep costs down and to reduce the burden of keeping license agreement records. There is no prohibition against purchasing third-party applications or receiving donations of software, as long as the unit adheres to the license agreements and keeps physical copies of the license certificates in the clerk’s office. In the case of donated software, the donor must provide the software license certificate and confirmation that they have either uninstalled the software from or have never installed it on other computers.

When purchasing software, copies of the proof of purchase must be emailed to ITAssetManagement@ldschurch.org. Please include the unit number where the software will be used and the contact information of the individual who purchased it.

The software products listed below are optional, but have been used by many clerks. These products are free and do not require licenses. Other software products may be used as long as the guidelines above are followed.

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 12:47 pm
by russellhltn
RossEvans wrote:
Any computer software program that was not created by the Church or is not approved for use on Church computers.

The problem is the word "or". It means everything not created by the church is third-party. "Or" can not subtract from that list. It can only add to it. It also makes the rest of the sentence pointless, but I've said before that I have issues about how things are worded. But if you're going to stick with the document as worded, that's what you get.

Now, if it said "and", then it would mean what you claim it means.

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 2:28 pm
by RossEvans
russellhltn wrote:
RossEvans wrote:
Any computer software program that was not created by the Church or is not approved for use on Church computers.

The problem is the word "or". It means everything not created by the church is third-party.


Huh?

So according to your reading, no software not created by the Church can contain membership data on the clerk's computer? That reading would make the second half of the "or" conjunction in Section 3.11 superfluous. It also would rule out anything that is allowed under the RKATS policy, even including Open Office spreadsheets, etc. So leaders can export membership data from MLS or lds.org by design, but can do nothing but parse it telepathically without software? Or we can create a spreadsheet report for the bishop or ward council, but never populate it with the names of members?

I read the "or" this way: There is a class of software that is prohibited to use for membership data. To be exempt from that prohibited definition, software can either be created by the Church, or it can be "approved for use on Church computers." And what is approved is defined elsewhere in RKATS: "Other software products may be used as long as the guidelines above are followed."

Aside from that RKATS section, we know of no current policy document that defines what is "approved for use on Church computers." The RKATS document contains an optional whitelist of various types of applications and utilities -- including but not limited to Open Office products -- that can be augmented by any other software that meets the guidelines. So the two documents must be read together to make sense.

I don't think the drafting of the policy would get the highest marks in a legal writing class, or even an English composition class. But there is not necessarily a conflict between the two policy documents unless you strain to create one with a nonsensical result. They can be read together in a commonsense way, and one supports the other.

Re: Ward Boundary Maps Detail

Posted: Sun Jun 29, 2014 6:20 pm
by russellhltn
RossEvans wrote:I don't think the drafting of the policy would get the highest marks in a legal writing class, or even an English composition class. But there is not necessarily a conflict between the two policy documents unless you strain to create one with a nonsensical result. They can be read together in a commonsense way, and one supports the other.

I think I'm winning you over to my side. ;)

I really wonder about the scope part and the inclusion of the word "meetinghouse". It seem odd they'd include that word unless it was a shorthand for "wards, stakes, branches and missions functioning as stakes" and was not intended to be binding on other areas of the church such as offices.

Because it sure seems odd they'd have a policy that prohibits data being loaded in unapproved software (I think we're in agreement on that part), but it's acceptable to do so in one's home.