jdlessley wrote:(bold added for emphasis) Confidential data such as membership data should not be stored on a third party server. The right to see confidential data does not supersede responsibility to protect that data. Protecting confidential data is why it should not be stored on a third party server. When third party servers are used to store data the Church cannot control the security of that data or who can gain access to it.
What office, or who, at CHQ gave you that information? It would be nice to know what type of documents and what information or data would be included on those documents you asked about. Because I doubt that anyone in authority would have given approval to store confidential data on a third party server.
[font="]I called the Clerk Assistance and Instruction (Membership), telephone 801-240-3500 to ask about Dropbox and Google docs. I am our Ward Assistant Clerk over Membership in the Grandview 8th Ward.
1) I explained that we wished to use Dropbox to store MLS backups on the cloud automatically whenever they were saved to our local MLS Dropbox folder. We were using a USB flash drive for backups but trying to keep backups offsite when multiple clerks and bishopric members used the MLS computer throughout the week was becoming virtually impossible. It was always "Who has the USB flash drive and how do you keep it offsite if multiple people need to do backups?" and so instead of being offsite it basically sat in the drawer in the clerks office. Kind of pointless as an offsite backup, right? We even considered multiple flash drives for each person that does backups but that compounds the problem and chance of errors. But as I said, even though dropbox is more secure and reliable than any flash drive and is backed up regularly on their servers as well as our personal hard drives as soon as we logon, we couldn't get it to work consistently without modifying the Church's computer so we went back to the flash drive. To be clear, the problem was not with Dropbox but rather the Church's strict policies on the ward computer. This means we don't have an offsite backup solution that consistently works or is realistic to implement and simply leave the flash drive in the clerk's office.
2) I also explained that because the only people that have access to Leadership Resources currently are basically Bishoprics and Clerks, we wished to use Google Docs to have a common location for basic documents that all the leadership are allowed to access which we update weekly. These include Members without Callings, Members with Callings, Callings by Organization, Birthday List and Abbreviated Directory of Members as well as some spreadsheets we created to list Sacrament Meeting agendas and various todos among the Bishopric, clerks, etc. Each document/collection is only shared with those leaders that have full access to that document via MLS and are secure and require passwords through Google Docs. To be clear again, the only people with access rights to these shared Google docs are leaders who have access rights on MLS or have rights to that particular document, and Google docs is much more secure and reliable than 50+ printed copies being handed out each week of those documents to every organization head. They need access to that information in order to serve, fill positions and contact members.
I'm not sure who I spoke with (it was a few months ago) but I was told that using Google Docs as a tool to share information didn't violate any policy the Church has in place. We are not creating a ward website or other web presence or blog that anyone in the world or even average ward members can access. We are simply using secure technology to serve in our callings. This is no different than a Bishop or other leader sending emails with confidential information about ward members and is much more secure than a printed document that can be lost or simply passed around to those that really shouldn't have access to it. Clearly email systems go through servers and that information is stored in the cloud when you use Gmail, Yahoo email, etc. To say that somehow Gmail is ok but Google Docs (same company and systems) is not seems absurd.
If I sound frustrated it is because sometimes it feels as if Salt Lake lives in a bubble and doesn't get that in the real world these policies sometimes hinder rather than help us serve in our callings. The idea that we are trying to "supersede responsibility to protect that data" as you put it is frankly insulting. We chose to use Google Docs, after talking with Salt Lake, specifically because it is a more secure and proven technology when compared to the problems we have had with MLS being out of sync with the LDS.org website and because Salt Lake has given us no alternative tools. Without these technologies the work in our ward would grind to a halt in many ways. [/font][font="]To give you an example or two, the Grandview 8th Ward family ward has within just our ward boundary over 18 Young Single Adult Wards from 3 different Stakes. Again that is 18 complete wards from 3 different stakes all within just our Grandview 8th Ward boundary! Some of these YSA wards are laid out so that 4 connecting apartments within a single building in an apartment complex go to 4 different wards. (Explain the logic of that to me). To make matters worse, if someone is single and 18-30 and moves into our Ward Boundary area or looks their address up on LDS.org to find their ward, their membership records are not sent to the YSA ward, they are sent to us and we have to figure out where to send the records. We have massive turnover in our ward every week from move ins/outs and Salt Lake sending us records that don't belong to us. Our ward also has an extremely high turnover rate and in the past 3 months we have seen changes in our 1st and 2nd counselors in our Bishopric, our Executive Secretary, multiple ward clerks, the RS and Elder's Quorum Presidents and the Sunday School president and that is just the leadership changes. Without these tools which we called Salt Lake and got approval to use, we couldn't begin to function in our callings efficiently, to fill the large number of positions that turn over weekly and to get the information to the new leaders that they need to serve. These tools are a blessing.
I am sure we are not alone in using these types of tools to serve in our callings, in fact I know that many wards use these same tools which is why people are asking about them in this forum. Like Gmail, where confidential leadership communications and attachments are stored on Google's servers, tools like Google Docs can be a benefit and blessing to those who serve and are secure. I called Salt Lake and received guidance that these tools didn't violate any church policies. I look forward to the day when the Church provides a simple shared storage space for wards or grants RS, YM, YW and other leaders access to the same information they can get on MLS but until then and until the Church instructs us to stop using tools like email, Gmail, Yahoo mail, Google Docs or any other similar technology that stores data on servers in the cloud, I'll continue to use these tools to serve in my calling and feel good about doing so.