Privacy is a trade-off

In a library context, user’s may be more than happy to trade-in some of their privacy in return for a more tailored, personalized service; where people are actively choosing to tradeoff some of their privacy in exchange for convenience. Or the tradeoff could be between privacy and law enforcement or security.

An example of personalization in a library context would be the ability to create saved searches or alerts on information products. But would you necessarily want other people to know what these consisted of? In a corporate setting, for example, that could be incredibly valuable to a competitor.

The idea of people being willing to trade their information for convenience is known as the “privacy paradox”, whereby online users do have concerns over their privacy, and yet their own actions undermine it.

The question is whether the trade-offs involved are acceptable or not, and library users can only make an informed choice if they are fully aware of just what they are giving up and are able to balance that against the perceived benefits.

It is certainly true that some people would welcome the opportunity to tradeoff some privacy in exchange for convenience or for a more personlized experience. Last year, for example, I saw the following post on twitter:
Kate Davis ‏@katiedavis 29 Aug 2016   I want my library to exploit my borrowing data the way amazon exploits my purchasing data. Sell to me library! Sell to me!

The idea of a privacy tradeoff is discussed in an article published last year in IFLA journal, written by Sandra Garcia-Rivadulla – “Personalization vs. privacy: an inevitable trade-off?”