HT/VT Reporting Website Overview

Discussions around miscellaneous technologies and projects for the general membership.
jerbarb-p40
New Member
Posts: 6
Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:13 pm
Location: San Clemente, CA

Clarification of legal and data stewardship concern

#261

Post by jerbarb-p40 »

tomw wrote:This is not a Church IT department policy or concern. It is a legal and data stewardship concern. From the technology perspective, I am sure that we can devise ways to secure data. But we have to properly demonstrated to those in other departments that we can protect individuals information.


Name, address, phone number and email address information is considered sensitive data. We have learned from sad experience what happens when this data is misused or mishandled. Please be patient with us as we work through the organizational levels and departments.

Tom
Tom,

Could you please expand on this idea of it being a legal and data stewardship concern. It seems to me that as long as the data is secure, the only ones with access to it are the same people/leaders that have access to it directly in MLS on the ward computer. So access to that data is already part of their stewardship. I don't understand how accessing this data through the automated HT/VT is any different than accessing it directly on the ward computer.

If you are referring to the home/visiting teachers having access to the name, address, phone number and email address of the families they teach, again this is information that they already are provided as part of their stewardship. Why does it make any difference whether it is provided to them by giving them a print out, emailing it to them, or providing it through the HT/VT tool?

I must be missing something, because when this discussion began and we were asked to stop using the system, most of us understood "security of the data" to be the issue. So now you are saying " I am sure that we can devise ways to secure the data", but there are other issues. I, for one, would like a better explanation of the other issues causing concern, so that we can address them in this forum.

Name, address, phone number and email address are accessible to all members of the stake on the ward websites. Why does that not present any legal and stewardship data concerns and the HT/VT system does? If the HT/VT site is hosted on the same servers as the ward web sites, and has the same data (nothing more sensitive), what is the problem?

Jerry S
User avatar
brado426
Member
Posts: 313
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:50 pm
Location: Foothill Ranch, CA
Contact:

#262

Post by brado426 »

James_Francisco wrote:I do understand your thoughts here Brad. However, I'm also coming from the perspective of do things right the first time. My opinion is that the legal protections for personally identifiable information are far stronger in other countries than in the U.S.. With that in mind, why not be the best protector of personal information of any organization operating on the web from the U.S. by complying with the most stringent protections? That's my take.

James: I totally understand where you're coming from as well. I am also a proponent of doing things the "right" way the first time. However, I believe in a phased approach for potentially large projects like this. One of the many systems I am responsible for at work is a complex Document Imaging system. The whole system really needs to be replaced, however, the scope of replacing it is outrageous. I divided the system into 10 smaller managable projects. Once the 10 smaller projects are complete, our company will have a far superior system with far less production issues along the way. We have completed 4 out of the 10 projects thus far and it is amazing how much we have been able to accomplish. If we had created a single large project that replaced the system in one pass, I can guarantee that we would not have made anywhere near as much progress as we have. We would be hung up.

I would propose that we do the same thing with this project. We could do an initial security evaluation, address any security issues that were identified, and conduct a small pilot test with a handful of Stakes. In my opinion, having LDS Tech community members actually using the system and providing feedback on it would be the ultimate method of research. While all this progress was being made, time could be simultaneously spent on worrying about international legal issues. I'd rather start small and build upon it rather than start big and get hung up on the added complexity.

That's just my two cents.

Brad O.
russellhltn
Community Administrator
Posts: 31948
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:53 pm
Location: U.S.

#263

Post by russellhltn »

brado426 wrote:I am also a proponent of doing things the "right" way the first time. However, I believe in a phased approach for potentially large projects like this.
And part of doing it right the first time is to prototype it - to beta test it not only to make sure the code works as expected, but to make sure it gets the expected results. This is a combination of technology and social engineering. One would not want to roll out a church-wide system without testing and evaluating before hand.

BTW, Document Imaging systems are my day job. I'd be curious about what you've been working on, but that's probably for another thread or even PM.
User avatar
WelchTC
Senior Member
Posts: 2085
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 8:51 am
Location: Kaysville, UT, USA
Contact:

#264

Post by WelchTC »

jerbarb wrote:Tom,

Could you please expand on this idea of it being a legal and data stewardship concern. It seems to me that as long as the data is secure, the only ones with access to it are the same people/leaders that have access to it directly in MLS on the ward computer. So access to that data is already part of their stewardship. I don't understand how accessing this data through the automated HT/VT is any different than accessing it directly on the ward computer.
It is no different if that system were housed by the Church, fully vetted with our security engineers, etc. However when it comes to other individuals or organizations hosting the information for you then it becomes a concern. I would suspect that most other organizations would try to protect that data but not all may have the resources and expertise that the Church has. So, the current discussion is having the Church either host this application or write one that does the same thing. Hosting this application means that the Church has to buy off on the code, make sure that it meets our security requirements, etc. Writing our own means we have to free up resources internally to do it. I personally would like to have the community write the application for us but even this requires internal work to ensure we are securing the data appropriately.

Tom
User avatar
mkmurray
Senior Member
Posts: 3254
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:56 pm
Location: Utah
Contact:

#265

Post by mkmurray »

tomw wrote:It is no different if that system were housed by the Church, fully vetted with our security engineers, etc. However when it comes to other individuals or organizations hosting the information for you then it becomes a concern. I would suspect that most other organizations would try to protect that data but not all may have the resources and expertise that the Church has. So, the current discussion is having the Church either host this application or write one that does the same thing. Hosting this application means that the Church has to buy off on the code, make sure that it meets our security requirements, etc. Writing our own means we have to free up resources internally to do it. I personally would like to have the community write the application for us but even this requires internal work to ensure we are securing the data appropriately.

Tom
It's been mentioned before that it would be best for brado's website to go directly at the Church membership information, as oppossed to having to continually export from MLS or some similar method. We have to keep in mind what this entails. It means the Church will be creating an API that's open to code they didn't write! Is it any wonder there is debate about security and legal concerns? This is new territory for the Church. Personally, I am thrilled that the Church is considering such a project so seriously. I agree with the concerns that the project might be stalemated, but I would assert to everyone to keep in mind what is going on here: something completely new and exciting for Church technology and development! Have patience and I think we'll see the result we're looking for in due time.
User avatar
brado426
Member
Posts: 313
Joined: Sun Feb 11, 2007 9:50 pm
Location: Foothill Ranch, CA
Contact:

#266

Post by brado426 »

tomw wrote:It is no different if that system were housed by the Church, fully vetted with our security engineers, etc. However when it comes to other individuals or organizations hosting the information for you then it becomes a concern. I would suspect that most other organizations would try to protect that data but not all may have the resources and expertise that the Church has. So, the current discussion is having the Church either host this application or write one that does the same thing. Hosting this application means that the Church has to buy off on the code, make sure that it meets our security requirements, etc. Writing our own means we have to free up resources internally to do it. I personally would like to have the community write the application for us but even this requires internal work to ensure we are securing the data appropriately.

Tom

After spending a better part of the last year on this project, I would be lying if I didn't say that I'd be disappointed if the Church said, "Thanks for all your effort, Brad... .we'll take it from here." I think it is understandable that I would want to be involved in the project, but it seems almost impossible due to all the red tape. Recently, every scenario I can think of regarding the future of this project involves me being totally out of the loop. It seems that the only possible way I could be involved with this project is to move to Salt Lake and become a Church employee (which at this point, I do not believe is too likely.)

I do not think this is a good message to send to community members that have invested their heart and soul in a project. "Thanks for all your work, but we're considering rewriting the whole thing from scratch internally." I realize that I took a big risk in spending any time on this at all, and I also realize my code isn't perfect and needs improvement, but in 9 months, I haven't been able to get anyone at the Church to even begin to evaluate the security concerns or give me any feedback as to whether it is something the Church even is interested in using. This is far from what I expected. I thought the Church would be excited and motivated to work with me on this, but I'm not getting that indication as of yet. I thought the Church would be so motivated that some exceptions could be made in policy to help this project move forward. This was a misconception also.

Also, if it has been this difficult and taken so much time to get this far, I'm imagining far worse for when things actually get going. I'm picturing added complexities and additional time required when trying to debug application issues. I am beginning to wonder if it is even possible to be an outsider (non-Church employee) and develop a project like this.

On one hand, I probably shouldn't have developed this system without working with the Church ahead of time. On the other hand, the system wouldn't exist today if I didn't go on a renegade development spree. I still hope for the best for this project, but logic is telling me that the outcome is going to be disappointing because I will not have the opportunity to be involved.

Ok, I've spilled my guts here, but let me make it clear that this is not an attack on Tom W. or anyone else. I'm just not too happy with the situation. It is clear to me that as things are now, the only projects community members should be spending their precious time on are projects that are officially endorsed on this site.

I haven't given up.... I'm just a bit frustrated (which I think is a pretty normal and reasonable emotion to have on occasion in this field.) :)

Brad O.
The_Earl
Member
Posts: 278
Joined: Wed Mar 21, 2007 9:12 am

Red Tape

#267

Post by The_Earl »

I have edited your post...
brado426 wrote:After spending a better part of the last year on this project, I would be lying if I didn't say that I'd be disappointed if the Church said, "Thanks for all your effort, Brad... .
I will be the first to say THANKS. Many people (myself included) have thought of great program ideas for church software. YOU are the only one (to date) that has been bold enough and tenacious enough to follow through to this point. YOU have pushed a functional project, a tested project, a useful project to get this process in gear. THANK YOU for being bold enough to put your time into this.
brado426 wrote: I do not think this is a good message to send to community members that have invested their heart and soul in a project.
I agree.
brado426 wrote: I thought the Church would be so motivated that some exceptions could be made in policy to help this project move forward.
I think POLICY is the operative word here. See my thoughts below.
brado426 wrote:On one hand, I probably shouldn't have developed this system without working with the Church ahead of time. On the other hand, the system wouldn't exist today if I didn't go on a renegade development spree.

Brad O.
WRONG, see above. This milestone is a needed part of the process. I understand that you are frustrated that you get to be the one to fight this fight. Understand that we, the community, are behind you. We just didn't have a project to back, so we back yours.

As developers and engineers, I think we get frustrated when we have a working project and a functional design, and it gets caught up in process and policy. I work in QA (not at the church), so I AM often the roadblock to shipping a 'working' product. The pieces of the process are there to make sure that ALL of the interested parties get their needs met by a given solution. Every piece of code that I get from dev 'works', it is my job to make sure that we understand the limits of 'works'. That doesn't mean that the software does not do what we intended it to, but that we need to understand how and where the software does not do what we intend. That includes policy, performance, scaling, and function.

From the messages I read, I think the church is still trying to hash out the policy. It is clear to them that submissions such as yours are GREAT, but they need to figure out how that fits into their greater organization. They are still working on the policies around this process.

At this point, they do not know how to involve you in rolling this out, since they do not know what they need to get this published. I do not think there is any question that this functionality needs to be implemented, the church just needs to figure out what the next steps are. When they have those steps, expect to be very busy working with them to get those done. You can't help them figure out those steps yet, because you are not part of the policy-setting group at the church. Personally, I try to avoid policy meetings, they tend to be long and boring ;).

In short, I don't think the church is telling you that you wasted your time, they just don't yet know where to go from here.

I think the church was surprised at the response of the community. I do not think that they expected working projects mere months after they launched this site. I do not think they had any visibility into this community before, so had no idea people were this passionate and motivated. I do not think they had policy in place for this, nor do I think they understood that they needed that policy. Now, the rubber has met the road, and they are working frantically to get the pieces in place so they can take advantage of our community.

Thanks again for your hard work.

Barrie
User avatar
mkmurray
Senior Member
Posts: 3254
Joined: Tue Jan 23, 2007 9:56 pm
Location: Utah
Contact:

#268

Post by mkmurray »

Brad,

I completely agree with all of The Earl's comments. I think he hit it right on the nose. I'll offer my deep thanks to you as well for being so bold and spending so much time and effort creating this project. It really is an terrific undertaking!

As for the current situation of the project in the ranks of the Church, I would say please remember that your project is the first one to go through this process. And with that, all of the policy and standards for opening projects to the community have to be established. It will naturally take quite a bit longer this first iteration. And The Earl is right, we are ALL behind you Brad!

Also, I will pipe in my opinion on the subject. I think it would be a grave mistake for the Church to establish a routine of receiving a great project idea from the community and then rewriting it themselves. That is a lot of lost time and duplicated effort. Plus, there were also be more community development resources than Church ones. The Church could gain so much from tapping into such an eager community of volunteers.

From Tom W.'s comments, it is apparent that he catches this vision as well and is currently trying to encourage that foresight out to the rest of the departments at the Church. Good luck!
russellhltn
Community Administrator
Posts: 31948
Joined: Sat Jan 20, 2007 2:53 pm
Location: U.S.

#269

Post by russellhltn »

The Earl wrote:I think the church is still trying to hash out the policy. It is clear to them that submissions such as yours are GREAT,
If it were not so, they wouldn't be trying to work out the issues.

I will say that in my experience the church moves very slowly. Even the insiders overestimate the speed. :o

My best suggestion for the time being is to put this on the back burner and start on something else. Think of it as the "watched pot never boils". Watching and waiting will just frustrate you even more.
User avatar
WelchTC
Senior Member
Posts: 2085
Joined: Wed Sep 06, 2006 8:51 am
Location: Kaysville, UT, USA
Contact:

#270

Post by WelchTC »

The Earl is right on. Your work is of great value to us. It has gotten a lot of discussion going at the Church. I don't want to commit to too much here but this project has been discussed as one of the first projects to really engage the community in developing. I'd be lying if I told you that we have a lot of traction on taking your app as is and distributing it. There are too many unknowns, foremost is the duplication of data (something which causes us a lot of problems). So the next logical discussion is how do we allow the community to help build this app securely. That is the discussions going on. It may seem like we are "discussing this thing" to death but it takes a long time to get people together and build consensus.

Let me give you some insight on what has to happen. To engage the community in this project we would need to do the following:
  • Create an API to the member data. Currently most apps that get membership data talk directly to the DB. We obviously cannot allow this moving forward, not only for this project but for any project. So a secure API has to be figured out, scoped out, funded, and developed.
  • Necessary permission to allow access to membership data has to be secured. This sounds easier than it is. Imagine you are the data privacy officer or the data steward for the church and some project manager comes to you and says "Hey, we are going to create an API where developers who are not employees of the Church can help us build applications". They need to be assured that a) this is a necessary and needful project and b) we have taken all available means necessary to protect the data.
  • Funding - to do any work we need to have a project completed, filled out, approved, and funding granted. This process alone can take months.
  • Resources - We have so many projects going on at the Church, you sometimes have to wait for resources to free up. Remember, we are talking about if we were to create APIs.
  • Specifications - Even though your application goes a long way to getting us a functional specification, before the Church endorses the product, a product manager from the Priesthood department will need to review it, add / subtract any features that the Church thinks important, etc. Again, this takes all of the steps above to happen.
It can be discouraging...I know. Please be patient while we work through the process. Also, my disclaimer here: I'm not promising any that this project will happen. I'm working hard to make it happen but the final decision will be made by those who have that authority.

Tom
Post Reply

Return to “Other Member Technologies”