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Looming Ethical Dilemmas: Emerging Mobile Technologies and Prospective Roles for Medical Librarians

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Poster Presentation at SCC/MLA 2010 (Austin, TX)

Poster Presentation at SCC/MLA 2010 (Austin, TX)

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  • 1. Looming Ethical Dilemmas:
    Emerging Mobile Technologies and Prospective Roles for Medical Librarians
    Mark Baggett and John Cyrus
    Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center – Shreveport • Medical Library
    COMMENTARY
    As you can see in these images, current trends in mobile technology present unique challenges to the field of librarianship in general, and medical librarianship in particular.
     
    Whether we want it or not, we are now part of an age of increased social interconnectedness. This is largely due to the increase of mobile technologies that allow people to remain in touch wherever they are.
     
    With this increased mobility and the use of corresponding technologies and applications, we have potentially witnessed a tremendous change in our culture. This change is characterized by, according to many, the apparent shift from a default public preference for privacy at the social level, to a more open stance where more information is shared at the public level.
     
    Again, as is demonstrated in the images on this poster, an increase in willingness to share what used to be private, whether it is religious preference or your medication list, creates the potential for conflict with much of what librarians hold dear in regards to privacy and confidentiality.
     
    The potential for transmission of patient information from mobile devices presents concerns from a legal and ethical standpoint as well. HIPAA regulations provide some guidance, but fail to address these emerging mobile trends in depth. Additionally, there is very little discussion of this subject in the library and information science literature.
    Abstract
    Description: The purpose of this poster is to describe emerging mobile technologies such as geolocation and augmented reality, and discuss their potential impact on patient privacy and confidentiality. Additionally this poster will examine possible roles for medical librarianship in reconciling bleeding edge technology with medical ethics.
     
    Background: Two of the biggest mobile trends of the past year have been geolocation and augmented reality. Geolocation technology identifies and tracks a mobile device user’s location. Augmented reality superimposes digital information on the real world in real-time. Together, these technologies hold the promise of many beneficial applications; however, they also pose a serious and real threat to privacy.
     
    Conclusions: Given the traditional role of librarians as stakeholders in user privacy and confidentiality, especially in medical settings, it is critical that medical librarians be conscious of emerging technologies, their implications, and take a proactive role in protecting the rights of users and healthcare consumers.
    While Mark sits privately with Dr. Mario in the exam room, a bored patient scans the office while he waits.
    Mark enjoys Cosmo while waiting patiently for the doctor. Meanwhile, another patient uses a mobile app to retrieve information about him .
    Geolocation
    …can be as simple as pinpointing a user’s location. Most often it is used to refer to mobile apps that use location information to provide a service. One popular example would be the check-in service FourSquare.
    Introduction
    The images in this presentation represent potential applications of existing and developing mobile technologies in the realms of healthcare and medical librarianship. The use of these technologies is an extrapolation of their current capabilities and does not accurately represent any single existing mobile app.
     
    The interfaces displayed are essentially amalgams of several popular mobile applications such as Foursquare, Layar, and Twitter. They represent various ways in which concepts like geolocation and augmented reality are used in the real world. When these concepts are combined they can produce a useful mashup of real-time, interactive information about the world.
     
    The goal of this presentation is not to present specific instances of misuse of mobile technology, but to encourage the audience to think about and discuss the possible implications or emergent dilemmas.
     
    While many may already be familiar with some of the technologies implied here, definitions are provided for some of the key concepts.
    Facial Recognition
    ...is the process of scanning a person’s face and determining their identity by querying it against a database of faces. Although not widely used some current examples include Viewdle, Recognizr, and Comverse.
    CONCLUSIONS
    With every new technology there is potential for both benefit and harm. The rapid growth of mobile technology is no different. There are countless uses for this technology from the personal or professional standpoint.
     
    While many day-to-day activities in a health sciences library will not be affected by this technology, there is room for us to expand our traditional roles as educators, advocates, and protectors of privacy and confidentiality.
     
    Librarians have the opportunity to move beyond simply announcing new technologies to educating and making users aware of what impact these new technologies might have on their social privacy.
    Visual Search Engines
    ...determine the identity of objects captured in an image and connect users with information about or related to that object. Current examples include GoogleGoggles and oMoby.
    Augmented Reality
    …is the superimposition of graphics and data over the real world, in real time. The most familiar example is the yellow first down line in football games on television.
    Social Privacy
    …describes the extent to which users have control over their own information, and the manner in which others collect, maintain, and use personal, private information gathered from users.
    Mashup
    ...is an application created by combining information or capabilities from more than one existing source. One example is the integration of user reviews into a Google Maps search.
    After receiving the bad news, Mark goes to the medical library to learn more about his condition. Meanwhile, another user looks to see what Mark is researching.