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.
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.
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.
In the wake of Mark Zuckerberg’s Congressional testimony last week and the related explosion of public interest in how online personal data is collected, stored, shared, used and sometimes misused, this year’s CPW theme—“Big Data is Watching You”—could not be more perfectly timed.
By: T.J. Lamanna Cross-posted from the OIF Blog With the recent release of tools like Certbot and HTTPSEverywhere and organizations like Let’s Encrypt, it’s becoming easier and easier for non-enterprise web administrators to add SSL certificates to their websites, thus
by William Marden Chair, ALA-IFC Privacy Subcommittee The New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Library are teaming up with the Metropolitan New York Library Council to bring digital privacy and data-security information to New York City’s 8.5