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Case 49. Electronic Transfer of Confidential Research Data


Joan Consultant was working with a colleague, Joe Analyst, who was located in a branch office of their consulting firm in a different state. They were preparing a report for a client, Acme Cellular, on the results of open-ended interviews with managers and staff of one department of Acme. Joan had entered her interview notes for each interview in her computer, identifying the interviewee by position title. She had also prepared an analysis of the key points of agreement and disagreement between management and staff members. She emailed the Acme files for both the analysis write-up and the interview notes to Joe for his review and input. He returned the analysis, with edits and additions by email. He also faxed her interview notes from two of the interviews (which he had printed out) with hand-written questions on sections of the interviews he did not understand.


  1. Did Joan and Joe take the proper precautions in emailing files to safeguard the confidentiality of their data and report material?
  2. Was it appropriate for Joe to fax interview notes to Joan?
  3. What are some alternative ways to safeguard confidentiality when emailing data files or draft report material?
  4. What are ways to safeguard confidentiality when faxing data files or draft report material?

Reflect on the above questions and form your own answers before clicking the discussion key to review the commentary provided with this case.