on encrypting files

there’s a post up at scatterplot about using pseudonyms to protect one’s research particpants that seems doubly relevant to me today. i’ve just started my dissertation research – interviews – in earnest, and perhaps too earnestly thought i needed to encrypt each file that had potentially identifiable information in it (such as names, although i tend not to write them in my transcripts/field notes, and locations, which i do).

so, anyway, i use my normal, trusty password to encrypt about a  dozen word 2007 files, only one of which is not totally recreatable. and somehow, even though i thought i put that same password on all the files, there is now one that i cannot open. one guess which one it is.

in any case, this makes me think about my duties to encrypt and/or password-protect my data files, both in terms of what the IRB would want me to do, and in terms of what is most ethical in reference to my research participants. and, also, to me – because losing access to a file might be seen as just as problematic to the person whose interview i had notated there, as well as inconvenient and damned frustrating to me.

i don’t have the answer right now; in fact, i am actively ignoring this problem until morning and pretending i will magically be handed the password in a dream tonight.

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3 Comments on “on encrypting files”

  1. jeremy Says:

    Welcome to blogging. I can appreciate the desire to do the right thing with sensitive materials. But, I don’t think I would do encryption unless I felt I was absolutely required to do so, or I was absolutely certain that there could not be a lost-password problem.

  2. Kieran Says:

    I wouldn’t password-protect individual files. There are better ways to encrypt stuff than this. E.g., you can encrypt a folder or a disk image and have everything inside be protected.

  3. auderey Says:

    jeremy – i do have the tendency to be rather conservative on things like that. baby steps.

    kieran – ah, yes, i have now discovered the folder-encryption option.

    thanks for swinging by!


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