Humanities Commons Privacy Statement

Last Updated: 20 August 2018

This privacy statement describes how the Modern Language Association and the collective of participating societies that sponsor Humanities Commons handle your personal information. In this update, we documented with some more detail how we handle account creation and log-in, the information we collect, our records retention practices, and your rights related to your personal data.


The Modern Language Association (which we refer to here as “we”, “us,” and “the MLA”) and the collective of participating societies (“Participating Societies” or “Societies”; individually, “Society”) that sponsor Humanities Commons (“Humanities Commons,” the “Commons,” or the “Network”) appreciate the importance of your privacy. We are committed to transparency and disclosure of the ways we gather and use personal and nonpersonal information on Humanities Commons.

This privacy statement (“Privacy Statement”), along with the Humanities Commons Terms of Service and Guidelines for Participation, constitutes the agreement (which we refer to here as the “Agreement”) between us and you regarding your use of Humanities Commons and its connected services, including but not limited to the Commons Open Repository Exchange (“CORE”).

This Privacy Statement describes how we collect and use your information in connection with Humanities Commons and the choices you can make regarding your information. Our goal at Humanities Commons is to be minimally intrusive while providing a robust environment for open professional exchange. As a result, much of the information you share and your activity on Humanities Commons may be seen by any visitor to the Network, whether or not the visitor is a registered user of the Network or a member of a Participating Society. Our goal is to be clear about how we use the personal and nonpersonal information you provide through the Network.

We may modify this Privacy Statement, along with the rest of the Agreement, in our sole discretion. We will take reasonable steps to notify you of any changes to this Privacy Statement in a manner commensurate with the nature of the changes; however, we urge you to review this Privacy Statement periodically.


Our servers are located in the United States. While we strive to be fully compliant with international privacy laws like the European Union’s GDPR, if you are located outside the United States, be aware that the information you provide us will be transferred to the United States and that the law applicable to the protection of User Information in the United States may be different from the laws of your jurisdiction. By using the Network or providing us with information through it, you consent to this transfer and to the collection, storage, processing, and use of your information in the United States as described in this Privacy Statement and the Terms of Service.

2. Member’s User Information

In this Privacy Statement, the personal information you provide to Humanities Commons when you create and use an account, including information about your activity on the Network that we record, is referred to as “User Information.”

a. Account Creation and Authentication

To create an account on Humanities Commons, you must provide us with information that verifies your identity and handles your log-in process. That verification and log-in process can be managed by a trusted source such as your university or a social identity provider such as Google or Twitter, or you can provide the information directly to our servers. We then use that information to determine the areas within the network to which you should be provided access. In what follows, we describe each of those scenarios, and how we use the information that we receive. No other user information sent by an identity provider will be collected or stored during the authentication process.

i. Google. When you use Google to create and authenticate your account, the log-in process takes place on Google’s servers. Humanities Commons receives the following information:

  • Your unique Google identifier, a string of digits that identifies your account
  • Your e-mail address or addresses known by Google
  • Whether your e-mail address or addresses have been verified by Google

That information is recorded in our user database, but only your Google identifier is used to connect to your account. Google may send additional information, including your Google profile URL, your profile picture, and your name; this information is not recorded and is not used by Humanities Commons.

ii. Twitter. When you use Twitter to create and authenticate your account, the log-in process takes place on Twitter’s servers. Humanities Commons receives the following information:

  • Your unique Twitter identifier, a string of digits that identifies your account
  • Your Twitter screen name

Your Twitter identifier is recorded in our user database and is used to connect to your account. Your screen name is not recorded and is not used by Humanities Commons.

iii. Your Institution. When you use your institution’s identity provision service to create and authenticate your account, the log-in process takes place on your institution’s servers. Institutional identity providers federate with Humanities Commons through their membership in InCommon and eduGAIN. Humanities Commons, as a registrant in the REFEDs Research and Scholarship Entity Category, receives the following information:

  • Your shared user identifier
  • Your name
  • Your e-mail address

Your institution may additionally send your affiliation (i.e., staff, student, faculty member). Your shared user identifier is recorded in our user database and is used to connect to your account. Your name and e-mail address are not recorded and are not used by Humanities Commons.

iv. Our Servers. When you opt to create a log-in identity on the Humanities Commons servers in order to create and authenticate your Commons account, we require you to give us the following information:

  • Your HC identifier (a username)
  • Your e-mail address
  • A password

Your HC identifier is recorded in our user database and is used to connect to your account. We store your HC identifier and password to authenticate the account, and we store your e-mail address to allow you to reset your password.

b. Participating Society Membership

When you register (and periodically thereafter), we will check to see if you have a membership in a Participating Society by searching for your e-mail address in its membership database. If you are a member of a Participating Society, Humanities Commons may retrieve the following information from your Society membership record:

  • Your full name
  • Your member number or ID
  • Your position and institutional affiliation, if any
  • Your e-mail address
  • Your membership in any official Society groups
  • The expiration date of your Society membership
  • Your ORCID identifier

If this information is retrieved, we will use your full name associated with your Society membership to create your account, and your full name, position, and institutional affiliation, if any, will be made publicly visible on your Humanities Commons account profile (“Profile”). Information about your membership in any official Society groups will be used to automatically place you into the associated groups on Humanities Commons. Except as provided in this Privacy Statement, the rest of the information taken from your Society membership record is used only for our authentication, debugging, and other internal purposes and will not be shared with any third parties.

c. Your Profile and Activity

Humanities Commons is a professional scholarly network designed to promote collaboration and discussion among scholars, students, and practitioners in humanities fields, as well as dissemination of members’ work to the broader intellectual community online, and as such, it counts openness among its primary values. The purpose of the MLA and the Participating Societies in collecting User Information is to operate Humanities Commons and allow our members to connect and interact with one another. As a result, much of your activity and communication that takes place within Humanities Commons is openly visible to any visitor to Humanities Commons, whether or not the visitor is a Commons member or is logged in, and is likewise visible to search engines. This section describes how certain User Information will be made available on Humanities Commons.

i. Profile and Activity Information.

You may choose to provide information to complete additional fields in your Profile. Any such User Information you volunteer for your Profile, such as your photo, your professional history, your Twitter username, your ORCID identifier, your interests, status updates, and your Web site URL, will also be visible to any visitor to Humanities Commons, whether or not the visitor is a Network member or is logged in. If you do not wish to share this User Information, do not add it to your Profile. Please do not post any personal identification numbers or other private information not required for registering for or using the Network.

Similarly, except as specifically described below, all of your activity on Humanities Commons will be viewable by any visitor to Humanities Commons, including through your Profile, whether or not the visitor is a Network member or is logged in.

ii. Private Activities.

Limited portions of your activities on Humanities Commons are private. Your activity in these sections will not be publicly visible in your Profile, and only certain other Humanities Commons users, as described below, will be able to see this activity.

(a)       Private and Hidden Groups. Humanities Commons allows Commons members to create private and hidden groups, in addition to public groups. All Network visitors can see that a private group exists, and membership in those groups is visible in their members’ profiles, but only Commons members who have been permitted to join a private group by the administrator of the group will be able to see other Commons members’ activity in the group. Hidden groups are similar, except that only Commons members who have been invited to join the group can see that the hidden group exists, and membership in hidden groups is not publicly visible in their members’ profiles.

(b)       Restricted Sites. Humanities Commons allows Commons members to restrict access to sites they have created or administer; only those Commons members identified by the site administrator will be able to see the content posted on the sites, though the administration of the site will be visible in the administrator’s profile.

(c)       Private Messages. The Network allows Commons members to send private messages to other Commons members; these messages and the fact that Commons members have sent or received them will not be viewable by anyone except the sender and the recipient.

If you create a site or group on the Commons, that space is still subject to the policies and guidelines that govern the network as a whole, and you as owner/moderator are responsible for complying with relevant policies, including policies related to visitors’ personal data.

d. Network Communications

We may use your User Information to send you important messages about the Network through e-mail or through other means available through Humanities Commons. For example, we may send you important messages about the operation of Humanities Commons (e.g., if we add or change Network functionality or change our Terms of Service or this Privacy Statement). Other e-mail preferences can be set in a member’s Settings.

3. Collected Information

In the normal operation of Humanities Commons, the network collects certain information from visitors whether or not they are logged in. Additionally, visitors may voluntarily provide information to sites within the network whether or not they are logged in. In this Privacy Policy, we refer to both forms as “Collected Information”; this section describes what we collect and the ways we store and use it.

Nonpersonal Data and other Collected Information may be used to provide or support Humanities Commons services as follows.

a. Cookies

Like most Web sites, Humanities Commons uses cookies and may use other technology that obtains nonpersonal data (“Nonpersonal Data”) from visitors. For instance, we use cookies during the registration and log-in processes or to remember certain preferences. This data may include browser type, IP address, language preference, referring site, and the date and time of each visitor request. You can remove or block cookies using the settings in your browser, though doing so may affect your ability to use the Network.

b. Analytics

While we use Google Analytics to assess aggregate statistics about the Network’s traffic, we do not enable Google Analytics to record IP addresses or other identifying personal information from visitors.

c. Nonpersonal Data

We may use Nonpersonal Data to help diagnose and repair issues with your use of the Network, administer the Network, monitor Network usage, provide customization options, understand how our visitors use Humanities Commons, make decisions about how to change and adapt the Network, and create anonymous Network statistics. From time to time, we may release Nonpersonal Data in aggregate form (for instance, by publishing trends in Network usage). We will not release individual information, only aggregate information.

d. Logs

Our server logs record information about visits to the site, which we keep for a period of time in case we need to investigate an error, help a user fix a problem, or review how the site is being used. These logs are retained in accordance with our data retention policy (see below).

e. Members’ Sites on the Commons

Sites created by members of the Commons may include embedded content or use plug-ins that may collect personal data of visitors. Please be aware, when you visit such a site, that your personal data could be collected in one of the following ways:

  • Comments: When visitors who are not logged in leave a comment on a site, the IP address and browser are recorded in order to counteract spam. In addition, personal information like name and e-mail address submitted in the comment form will be collected.
  • Contact form: Any contact form should specify how the personal information entered would be used.
  • Embedded content: A site may embed content from other Web sites. Such embedded content (which could include a tweet or YouTube video) may allow that other Web site to collect data about you through cookies or other tracking methods.
  • Plug-ins: While we aim to limit the availability of plug-ins that send data to third-parties, some plug-ins collect personal data.

4. Sharing Information with Third Parties

The MLA and the Participating Societies take the privacy of our users very seriously, and we do not sell, rent, or otherwise provide your User Information or Collected Information to third parties, except as described in this Privacy Statement, unless disclosure is reasonably necessary in our opinion to (1) comply with legal process, including, but not limited to, civil and criminal subpoenas, court orders, or other compulsory disclosures; (2) enforce this Agreement; (3) respond to claims of a violation of the rights of third parties; (4) respond to customer service inquiries; or (5) protect the rights, property, or personal safety of the MLA or the Participating Societies, our users, or the public.

Humanities Commons uses third-party service providers (“Service Providers”) to provide certain services, such as hosting, which are necessary for the Network’s operations. We also use Service Providers to enhance member experience of the Commons, by, for example, providing integrations with services for discovering and disseminating scholarly work. We will take reasonable measures to ensure that these Service Providers will access and use User Information only for the purpose of providing services to Humanities Commons or on our behalf. (See section 8, “Security,” below.)

In the event that the governance or operation of the Commons changes, such that the MLA is no longer the data controller for the Commons (for instance, if Humanities Commons becomes an independent not-for-profit or its administration is transferred to another Society or institution), control of your data would be transferred to that entity and would continue to be treated according to this agreement. We would inform you of such a change in governance or operations and would revise this privacy policy to reflect it.

5. Your Choices and Rights

By using the Network and providing User Information to us, you expressly and voluntarily accept the terms and conditions of this Privacy Statement and the Agreement of which it is a part. Providing your information to the MLA is entirely voluntary. If you no longer wish to share your User Information, you can revise your Profile or close your account, as described in this section. However, you cannot change how your nonprivate activity on Humanities Commons is shared, except by closing your account.

a. Accessing and Changing Your Profile Information

You can review the information you provided for your Profile and make changes to that information at any time by clicking on the “Edit My Profile” link on your Profile or in the navigation bar drop-down menu below your name in the top right corner of every page of the Site. After your change is processed, the MLA may retain residual copies of the old information in its backup and archival copies of its database for a limited period of time.

b. Correcting Your Personal Data

If you believe that other personal data of yours are inaccurate or incomplete in our records, please contact us and we will correct it.

c. Changing Your E-mail Preferences

You can control the e-mails you receive by selecting your preferences on the E-mail page of your Settings.

d. Requesting Your Data

You have the right to request a copy of your personal data. To do so, contact us in writing at (or by mail at the address below). Please make clear that you are requesting a copy of your personal data. You may need to prove your identity with an e-mail confirmation or otherwise verify your identity. We will provide the data in a structured, commonly used, and machine-readable format.

e. Closing Your Account

If you wish to close your account, please contact us at We will delete or anonymize all information associated with your account in a timely matter, so long as there is no legal obligation to retain it for longer. You may need to prove your identity with an e-mail confirmation or otherwise verify your identity.

Please note that, to maintain the continuity and integrity of the discussions, groups, and other interactive features on Humanities Commons, your submissions to those sections will not be removed in connection with the closing of your account, though your identifying User Information will be removed from them. If you ever wish to use the social-networking features of the Network again, you will need to resubmit all information associated with your account and reestablish all connections with other Commons members.

f. Right to Erasure

Other visitors may request we erase their personal data by contacting us in writing. We will delete or anonymize all personal data in a timely matter, so long as there is no legal obligation to retain it for longer. You may need to verify your identity.

g. Right to File a Complaint

We hope you will contact us with any questions or complaints in relation to how we process your personal data. However, you do have the right to contact the relevant supervisory authority directly.

6. Links to Third-Party Web Sites

The Network may contain links to Web sites controlled by third parties (“Third-Party Web Sites”), whether provided by us or by other users. If you follow any link to a Third-Party Web Site, you should review that site’s terms of use and privacy policy to find out how the site treats the information you provide it. We are not responsible for Third-Party Web Sites or their privacy practices.

7. Records Retention

We will keep your personal data for as long as you have an account open, or as required to comply with legal processes. Typically, we retain web server logs that record information about visitors for three months.

8. Security

We will take reasonable measures to protect the integrity of private communications on the Network and to protect against loss, corruption, and alteration of the information on the Network. However, even protected sites can be subject to hacking, technological glitches, user misconduct, and administrative errors, and we assume no liability for any of these actions or occurrences or their results.

9. Children under Age Thirteen

Humanities Commons is not intended for use by children under the age of thirteen. By using the Network, you represent to us that you are at least thirteen years old. If you are not at least thirteen years old, you may not use the Network. We do not knowingly collect personally identifiable information from children under the age of thirteen. If we learn that we have inadvertently collected any personally identifiable information from a child under the age of thirteen, we will delete that information. If you are a parent or guardian and you believe that your child under age thirteen may have provided personally identifiable information through the Network, please contact us at

10. Contact Us

If you have any questions about this Privacy Statement, the practices of Humanities Commons, or your dealings with Humanities Commons, you can contact us by e-mail at, or by mail at the following address:

Angela Gibson
Director of Scholarly Communication
Modern Language Association
85 Broad Street, suite 500
New York, NY 10004