This post will address incorporating privacy review into digital projects.
The right to privacy is one of the foundations upon which our libraries are built. Privacy is one of the key reasons libraries are such a trusted part of every community. In a world that thrives on surveillance and data mining, libraries provide a safe place for users of all ages to seek out information free from unreasonable intrusion into or surveillance of their use. As libraries across the world have shut their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we face the challenge of upholding our commitment to not monitor, track, or profile an individual’s library use beyond our operational needs.
As communities struggle with the COVID-19 pandemic, libraries are faced with the decision to institute contact tracing, monitoring who comes into the library and restricting access to those who don’t provide their personal information. Libraries should only perform contact tracing when mandated by public health or local officials. If your library is required to perform contact tracing there are specific ways that you can go about it that minimize the risks to users.
Have you ever thought about privacy in the context of wellness? Digital wellness is an approach that seeks to align wellness goals and habits with respect to technology use and the benefits of privacy for well-being. Digital wellness is about exercising conscientious connectivity to achieve a healthy balance between the benefits and harms of technology and personal information disclosure.
As so much of life has been ‘closed down’ due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many libraries have begun to reach out to their users directly over the phone. These calls, sometimes referred to as wellness checks, come from our professional tradition of service and a genuine concern for the well-being of the users we have come to know so well and care for so deeply. This desire for checking in on our users can come into conflict with our ethical charge to protect user privacy and confidentiality regarding library use. Before jumping into action, take time to think about the purpose of the calls and how they will be done. The guidelines below were developed to help libraries consider if, and how, staff can make calls to users.