Users who decide to interact and publish are usually a small minority of users overall. If they have chosen to engage with the BBC and with other BBC users at a deeper level than most, we should take all reasonable steps to manage the relationship with them to help make their experience more fulfilling.
We need to be transparent with our users so that they understand what we are likely to do with their personal information and their contributions before they have given us their personal information or their contribution.
Before they can share content for publication on BBC Online, users will usually need to open a BBC account (BBC iD) and provide some personal information to the BBC.
It should be easy for users to find out why we are asking them for this personal information and what we are going to do with it.
If an independent production company is gathering user contributions on behalf of the BBC, we will need to make sure that any personal information they collect e.g. IP and email addresses can only be used for BBC purposes and that this will be handled appropriately. This should be in the contract with the independent production company. Information Policy and Compliance can advise on data protection issues and Information Security on data security.
Providing interactive services to our audiences means that we may have additional opportunities to collect, store and process information about an individual. This may not just be limited to personally identifiable information such as date of birth, post code or email address, but may also include relationships with other users (e.g. lists of contacts, friends, blocked users, etc.). We may use this data (in accordance with legal requirements for data protection and privacy) in ways which add value both for the individual user and for the wider audience.
However, in doing so we should respect the principle that the information we collect about the user belongs to them. It's their data and we should treat it as such. We can demonstrate our support for this principle by:
making it clear to users what data is being collected about them
explaining clearly how this data may be used by us
explaining clearly how and on what terms it may be shared by us with third parties.
As far as is practical, we should give individual users the means to control how data we collect about them is displayed and shared with other users in public - e.g. information we have about an individual user's online media consumption, habits and preferences which may form part of a user's public profile.
Whenever we solicit user contributions online, we should be clear with users about what they can expect to happen to the contributions they share with us.
We should make the House Rules available in a prominent way so that users can see what the rules say before they send us their contributions.
If the BBC is only going to publish a limited selection of comments or pictures or videos, we should make this clear at the point where we first solicit that content and also at the point where users can upload it. Otherwise they may feel disappointed and quite misled if their contributions don't appear.
Where we do publish a selection of contributions, we should either use a spread of opinion reflecting the different strands of argument that exist generally for that issue, or where appropriate, we should present an accurate and proportionate reflection of these who have sent us their views.
My Contribution: Who Can Do What With It?
Nowadays, people can normally be expected to understand that a contribution they may make to one part of the BBC e.g. a vox pop on TV may also appear on radio or online. But where we enable the audience to publish their own content on BBC Online, we should make it clear how we may use their content now and in the future and what rights they have in it.
This may include ensuring that as far as possible, the audience is aware that any content they place online may form part of an enduring, permanently available public record.
Our clear presumption is that we don't normally accede to a request from the original contributor to remove their content once it has been published. However in a small number of cases where there is an exceptionally strong reason eg where personal safety may be at risk rather than simple embarrassment, this may be feasible. See the Editorial Guidelines Section 3: Accuracy on managing online content and the Guidance Note on the Taking Down Online Content.
The BBC takes a non exclusive licence in user contributions. See bbc.co.uk/terms for details.
My Contribution: Identification or Anonymity?
Sites which invite users to take part in topical debates and discussions may wish to encourage users to contribute by using their real names. Such contributions may carry more weight in the area of current affairs if users are prepared to identify themselves to other users rather than using a pseudonym. This can be particularly useful where we may wish to publish comments on air as well as online. Radio and TV producers should bear in mind the risk of impersonation and defamation as usual.
However, producers should be aware that users may choose to change their published user name at any time, which may have the effect of retrospectively anonymising, or disguising the identity of the creator of, all that user's published contributions. Where a user has asked for a contribution to be removed altogether from BBC Online after publication, without an exceptionally strong reason, then changing their user name may be enough to give them the reassurance they seek.
My Contribution: Handing UGC to a Non-BBC Archive
From time to time we may want to share or give social media (e.g. user contributions which are part of a BBC editorial proposition) to a third party, e.g. to ensure the long term public availability of a collective set of memories or creative endeavours, for example The Peoples' War at http://www.bbc.co.uk/ww2peopleswar/ This is much easier to accomplish if the Commissioning Executive or equivalent has ensured that potential contributors are aware of this intention from the outset. Where this has not been done, we should take reasonable steps to inform contributors.
At the point that a user signs up for a BBC account (BBC iD), they should understand that they will get a BBC profile page. It should be easy for them to understand who can see what's on their profile, what the default settings are and how they can change them. For example, what profile information is only visible to the user, what is visible to their "friends" and what is visible to anyone else, including internet search engines like Google?
It is particularly important that the effect of signing up for a BBC account should be clear to a user before they do it if the granularity of the settings and other options we offer are quite limited.
While these choices may not concern many early adopters, some mass market users may be less confident in this area and they may greatly value having the option of accessing more background and explanation e.g. on the user journey. The user journey should take into account the needs of the less confident user rather than assuming familiarity with online accounts.
The same should be true for other social media activities which the user may initiate on or via BBC Online. For example, it should be clear to a user before they make recommendations where these will be visible, who to and how a user can remove a recommendation.
If a user is offered the choice of linking their BBC iD to their external accounts such as Facebook or Twitter, they should know who will be able to see what of their personal information and their content on the BBC site before they enable the connection.
Only a user's "friends" from external accounts who have also signed up to BBC iD should find that their personal information, recommendations and content from their social media and microblogging sites is also visible on their BBC profiles. Users should not be surprised to find information from their external account appearing on a BBC site.
It should be easy for a user to find out how to disconnect their BBC iD from their Facebook or Twitter accounts, and to disconnect them, so that no more information flows between their BBC iD and their social media and microblogging profiles on third party sites such as Facebook or Twitter. It should also be easy for them to find out how to remove information which has already been shared over the connection they enabled earlier.
For more advice on how to manage users' personal information, you can contact Information Policy and Compliance.