Is Your Oral History Legal and Ethical?

4 During The Interview

Once the interview is underway it is important to remember the interviewee’s wishes from both a social and an ethical perspective.

The interview relationship

A good interview is only achievable if there is mutual trust and rapport between the people involved. If for any reason an interviewee asks that the interview be ended or broken off and resumed at some later date, that preference should be respected. With this in mind it is often helpful before the interview begins to agree a time to finish the recording session, or perhaps to arrange to have a break.

Maintaining confidentiality

Interviewers, and project staff/volunteers processing interview data, should treat the content of the interview as confidential until a Recording Agreement or other access agreement has been finalised. If a duty of confidentiality is not included in standard employment contract terms and conditions, or in volunteer contracts, then project managers should consider asking project staff and volunteers to sign a Confidentiality Agreement, (PDF – 70Kb).

Awareness of defamation and libel

Interviewers should we aware of potential libel or defamation as the interview process progresses, bringing this to the attention of interviewees and project leaders so that everyone involved can weigh up the likely risk of offence being taken. This may result in the closure or partial closure of the interview.

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Since this advice was written GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) has come into effect in the UK and EU. This has changed some of the advice below and references to Data Protection are now out of date. The OHS is in the process of updating this advice but in the meantime it is important that you supplement it with our new GDPR guidance. November 2018