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.
Beginning this week, the American Library Association’s “Choose Privacy” website has a new look and a new URL — chooseprivacyeveryday.org — which emphasizes the importance of preserving patron privacy and data security in today’s libraries every day of the year.
We sometimes forget about the data we collect and how we store it. There are many places where we collect data that we may not always think about. We need to be aware of our data storage practices and make it easy for patrons to know how we use & store their data.
We often hear that Big Brother is watching you, but there are a lot of “Little Brothers” as well that wittingly or unwittingly funnel data to databases. Unfortunately, libraries and related organizations are a part of this surveillance environment, including the ALA.
Librarians don’t have to be a privacy expert in order to help people learn to protect their privacy online and sometimes it helps if you aren’t. Helping people understand privacy helps them make better choices more tailored to their own lives and their information needs.
Technology and digital data have made it easier to provide personalized online experiences. But people are often surprised to discover how much privacy they trade for those personalized experiences. How do libraries find that balance between customer service and privacy?
“Now is the time for us to tout the virtues of the library as a privacy haven to our patrons. We are not Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Google; and we should never strive to be. Our patrons are not our products. That is a huge difference between public institutions like libraries and private industries like social networks and tech conglomerates who derive their earnings from advertising.”
A selection of books and readings on privacy, Big Data, and libraries for Choose Privacy Week and beyond.
With the rise of surveillance technologies, and the ever-growing Internet of Things, there is a distinct possibility that in the near future, the library may be the only private public place left in modern society.