Looming Ethical Dilemmas: Emerging Mobile Technologies and Prospective Roles for Medical Librarians
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Mark enjoys Cosmo while waiting patiently for the doctor. Meanwhile, another patient uses a mobile app to
retrieve information about him .
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.
While Mark sits privately with Dr. Mario in the exam room, a bored patient scans the office while he waits.
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
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
…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
…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.
...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.
…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.
...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.
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.