“I am using my innocence and the trust upheld by my local librarians as a benchmark for best practices in our current privacy standards. So when the next generation of young and mighty Sapphos-to-Be come out or try and find answers to their unknown, they can do so with as much security, safety, and innocence that I was afforded.”
When library school ideals, professional ethics and the reality of managing a school library collide: the author describes how her students are being surveilled when searching for information on school-issued devices and argues that those who have taken an oath to preserve privacy and uphold intellectual freedom, must continue to ask as many questions as possible when administrators collect sensitive student data and offer to help write policies that both protect rights and support safe schools.
Librarians always have good intentions when they create a program, but may not be fully weighing the outcomes for patrons. We make some noise about new work to get people in our doors and engage with the public; to show our solidarity with our patrons. But what if drawing attention to the library isn’t the best strategy to protect the privacy of the very people you want to serve? It’s difficult to know the precise answer.A lot of what we might think about in librarianship about privacy is through the lens of what are more traditional library services, conducting personal research on a computer, borrowing materials, signing up for a computer class or using the library catalog, and through the lens of education and privilege. How do we convey library values to our communities when they are vulnerable?
Over a long timeline of interacting with the same people, library workers can start to develop a running knowledge of a large amount of information about the people that come in all the time. Housing status, health, financial wellbeing, personal issues, and so much more that is casually revealed gets added to the growing body of what is known of the user. This is information has privacy concerns attached to it, and the onus of maintaining the user’s privacy lies with every library worker who inadvertently gains details from incidental revelations from library users.
Privacy in libraries isn’t just about safeguarding patron records or internet usage. It’s about making patrons feel welcome when they enter the building, that they know that their pursuits are their own, and that we’re there to assist them without judgment. Privacy matters. Privacy allows us free movement across the intellectual spectrum. It allows us the freedom to pursue whatever topic we find call to us. Privacy gives us the ability to pursue our passions without fear of surveillance or oppression. What can be more liberating and inclusive than that?
This year’s theme for Choose Privacy Week (May 1-7, 2019) — “Inclusive Privacy: Closing the Gap” — draws attention to the privacy inequities imposed on vulnerable and historically underrepresented populations and highlights how libraries can close the privacy gap for those who need it most.
Consumer data privacy is having a moment: several bills have recently been introduced to Congress, while federal agencies and state legislatures are also working on the issue.
Through NYC Digital Safety, more than 1,000 library staff across New York City’s five boroughs have now been trained in digital privacy and security, using published online resources specific to data privacy in the library environment. These resources are available for use by libraries across the country.
This week’s privacy news: Privacy advocates and Silicon Valley establish their battle lines over the proposed US Privacy Framework, Senators investigate apps marketing to children, learn how car makers and police are tracking your car’s every move, surveillance capitalism, encryption, a big data leak from healthcare.gov and more.
In this week’s privacy news update: FTC sets sessions on consumer privacy, how tech companies get you to give up your data, privacy and the public library, school surveillance, genetic privacy, Wyden proposes tough new law to protect consumer privacy, Girl Scouts get hacked, and more.