Over the last two years I have done a lot of reading about privacy in libraries and have been gathering quotations from a wide range of sources (from books, academic articles, the professional literature, tweets and more). I have chosen the quotes below because they are thought provoking. They make us stop and think. And they cover a range of issues – the role of the librarian in protecting user privacy, the values that guide us as professionals, the challenge of protecting privacy in the digital space, not just physical space etc.
“We keep talking about how libraries are heralds of privacy, but we are terrible at it” TJ Lamana @TheNewLibrarian, Tweeted 26 June 2016 https://twitter.com/thenewlibrarian/status/747116391505879040
Librarians have done a good job of protecting privacy in the print world, but in the online world they are somewhat lacking (not an exact quote for the last bit) Mike Robinson, 2016. Changing the landscape of library privacy http://www.slideshare.net/TechSoupGlobal/webinar-the-changing-landscape-of-library-privacy-20160615
“librarians talk good talk about user privacy but continue to use (and build) software that provides no protection from snooping librarians, contractors or police” and the reason he gives is that “librarians have tended to prioritise functions that make our lives easier rather than those that make library users’ lives easier” Hugh Rundle, “Zoia Horn’s library: protecting users’ privacy with Tinfoil” 3rd July 2016
“Public libraries are among the last protectors of privacy in contemporary society” Brantley, 2014. Books and browsers
“teaching patrons how to use the internet, but not how to use it safely is like showing someone how to drive a car, but not where the seatbelt is” Matthew Beckstrom, 2015. Protecting patron privacy: safe practices for public computers
“Librarians feel a professional responsibility to protect the right to search for information free from surveillance. Privacy has long been the cornerstone of library services in America…the freedom to read and receive ideas anonymously is at the heart of individual liberty in a democracy” American Library Association (n.d.) Why libraries? https://chooseprivacyweek.org/our-story/why-libraries
“If we cannot (or do not) protect the intellectual privacy of our users, then we are failing as professionals” Ian Clark 2016 IN Journal of Radical Librarianship
“Libraries have, with the best of intentions in the world, taken a strong position on privacy, and they have lost. They got the whole privacy thing all wrong. Rather than participate in the policies of their institutions and the many organizations that interact with them, they have abdicated their role and are now watching as their institutions are being colonized by commercial interests, which are no longer answerable to libraries” Joseph Esposito 2016. The Scholarly Kitchen 23rd June 2016 “Libraries may have gotten the privacy thing all wrong”
“There is, or there should be, a taxonomy for surveillance and tracking that would keep things in perspective. What that perspective should be is the work of thoughtful, civic-minded information professionals – librarians, for short. We should root for them to take the field, but it appears that we will have to look elsewhere for heroes. The library community has concluded that this is a distasteful battle and have simply walked away from it. We are all worse off for this”. Joseph Esposito 2016. The Scholarly Kitchen 23rd June 2016 “Libraries may have gotten the privacy thing all wrong”
“Librarians have a professional responsibility to protect the right to access information free from surveillance. This right is at risk from a new and increasing threat: the collection and use of non-personally identifying information such as IP addresses through online behavioral tracking.” Information Week 16th February 2016 “Library manners demands respecting the privacy of others” The Cincinnati Enquirer, 8 August 2013. Nancy Rowles, A letter to the editor: Respect privacy at the library
“Privacy is a cornerstone of our professional ethics. …We have an obligation to protect the privacy of our users as a matter of principle.” (p. xii) Woodward. What every librarian should know about electronic privacy.