Text of a talk on library privacy (from April 2017) for CILIP Hants & Wight branch

Online privacy – Winchester (CILIP Hants & Wight)

  1. Introductory comments
  2. Ways privacy is relevant to the work of information professionals
  3. Can we extend user protections into the digital space?
  4. And if so how?
  5. Role librarians could/should play
  6. Types of data breaches involving libraries and their suppliers and their causes
  7. How to minimize the risks
  8. Practical steps. Examples of good practice


There has been a shift over the last four decades towards delivery of library services electronically, using integrated library management systems, ebook platforms, RFID technology, self‐service issue systems, online databases, and discovery services. Many libraries utilize cloud computing.

Another dimension is the way in which users access services on their own devices and/or they access library services remotely whether from home or elsewhere, rather than doing so solely on equipment provided by and located within a bricks and mortar library.

As libraries have relied more heavily on digital services, the challenge for librarians of being able to protect patron privacy has grown exponentially because of the complex ecosystem which has developed involving libraries, vendors, and third parties.

Third parties :

  • Marketing and business intelligence
  • Market research firms
  • Collectors of metrics of research impact
  • Collectors of general information on consumers

Analytics providers

  • Plum analytics (bought by Elsevier in 2017)
  • Clarivate analytics (Elsevier)

It is imperative that user privacy is extended beyond interactions with physical libraries, and this may require extensive programming and cyber security expertise.

Increasingly long and complex supply chain of third party suppliers

Increased outsourcing, offshoring, storage of data in the cloud

Problem – potential harm from secondary use of information along the supply chain

Problem – possible breaching of privacy expectations and confidentiality in passing information within the supply chain

In the course of normal Internet browsing, for example, the user may be under the impression that he or she is visiting and transacting with just one information provider or website at a time. In truth, a user may be sharing information with dozens of third parties while visiting just a single website. (The firefox addon lightbeam is a useful tool to visualise precisely which sites have had access to your information, both in terms of the sites you have visited AND the third parties who have also had access to your information)

  1. Ways in which privacy impacts the work of librarians
  2. Reading and borrowing histories (and how long they are held)
  3. Personalisation features in online databases (alerts, saved searches etc)
  4. Librarian bloggers venting publicly on their blogs about their interactions with patrons
  5. Use of web analytics tools on library sites
  6. Use of “enrichment”/book covers on the library catalogue

I want look in a bit of detail at these five examples, but in addition to the five that I will be looking at, there are plenty of other examples, such as:

  • RFID tracking
  • Ebook borrowing activity, and whether this is visible to outside vendors
  • Communications between patrons and library staff
  • Internet browsing histories

Example 1: How long do you retain loan history data?

  • Is it forever
  • Is it for the default period used by your library management software provider
  • Is it never (ie. as soon as an item is returned, the record is erased

Ultimately, ask yourself whether the information is held for longer than is strictly necessary

Do your users get a choice as to whether, and for how long, their reading history is retained?

Example 2: Online databases and personalization

Many online databases try to help users by providing a number of personalization features. However, this involves a trade-off with user privacy. In order to personalize the service, to tailor it to their needs, it inevitably needs to know the user’s identity. Otherwise, they would get the generic, standard service. A lot of people are happy to give up some of their privacy in exchange for a more tailored service. They want convenience. And that is absolutely fine, provided that the user is making an informed choice.

Think of the online databases that your institution subscribes to. Do you or your users:

–          Create saved searches that you can run as required

–          Create alerts so that users are automatically informed of new material matching their interests

–          Make use of personalization features such as a list of companies whose share price you monitor, or the industry sectors and sub sectors that you monitor regularly

–          Bookmark articles of interest

–          Annotate items

Are library staff confident that the database vendor will keep this information secure? If so, what makes you so sure. Did you cover that in the contract negotiations? And do you monitor that vendor on an ongoing basis, to see that they are living up to what they promised in the contract?

Imagine you are a corporate librarian. What if that sort of information gets into the wrong hands. It could tell a lot about you and your organisation – the companies you are looking as part of considering potential acquisitions; the product development work you are currently undertaking for a highly secret project on a new product idea and so on and so forth.

Example 3: Use of “enrichment”/book covers on the library catalogue

Content embedded in websites is a huge source of privacy leakage in library services. Cover images can be particularly problematic. Without meaning to, many libraries send data to Amazon about the books a user is searching for; cover images are almost always the culprit.

Eric Hellman points out two indications that a third-party cover image is a privacy problem. They are:

  • the provider sets tracking cookies on the hostname serving the content.
  • the provider collects personal information, for example as part of commerce.

Marshall Breeding has also written about the privacy implications of book covers and social sharing

– example: the presentation of cover art in the catalog can expose patron search behavior to amazon

— can enable tracking cookies to be deposited in user’s browser

– Vendors increasingly aware of this issue and proxy or cache images to avoid privacy issue

See Eric Hellman “How to check if your library is leaking catalogue searches to Amazon”

“I’ve come to realize that part of the problem is that the issues are sometimes really complex and technical; people just don’t believe that the web works the way it does, violating user privacy at every opportunity. Hellman, 2016: How to check if your library is leaking privacy” https://go-to-hellman.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/how-to-check-if-your-library-is-leaking.html 22nd December 2016

His blog post gives details of how you can tell if your library is sending Amazon your library search data.

Example 4: Librarian bloggers venting publicly on their blogs about their interactions with patrons One area where librarians need to take particular care is over the genre known as “RefGrunt”. This refers to the genre of blogging/writing where librarians vent publicly about their interactions with patrons. It is named after a blog that a librarian kept for about a year in the early 2000’s.

Sally Stern-Hamilton, using the pseudonym Ann (Miketa, 2012) wrote a book entitled “Library diaries”. It led to newspaper stories with titles such as “Ludington librarian fired over tell-all novel says her First Amendment rights were violated”.

The book chronicles the unsavory characters who visit the local library in a place she called “Denialville”. From the introduction: The Library Diaries: “After working at a public library in a small, rural Midwestern town (which I will refer to as Denialville, Michigan, throughout this book) for fifteen years, I have encountered strains and variations of crazy I didn’t know existed in such significant portions of our population.”

The publisher’s description said: “Open this book and you’ll meet the naked patron, the greedy, unenlightened patrons, destination hell, horny old men, Mr. Three Hats, and a menagerie of other characters you never dreamt were housed at your public library.”

Risk of being dooced

What people post on social networking sites raises privacy concerns. Indeed these can have severe consequences, such as someone being “Dooced” (that is, dismissed from their employment because of what they have written on a website or blog).

(Farkas, 2007) said, so far, I know of only one library worker who was fired for negative comments about patrons that he had written in a blog community, but I’m sure clashes between bloggers and administrators will become more commonplace as the blogosphere expands.

However, even at the time Farkas was writing there had been other instances of librarians losing their jobs as a result of what they had posted on their blogs. There is a case from 2005 of a librarian from New Zealand, bizgirl. She wrote posts mentioning her work colleagues. She received a series of warnings regarding her blog.

People didn’t like what was being said about them, and even though it was anonymised, they could still tell it was them.

One commentator at the time said that it does seem silly to keep blogging things that can get you into trouble when people you work with know about your blog. I guess the feeling is that if you calm down at first, they’ll forget about it. But it seems that once people know that you are writing about them, vanity assures they will constantly check. People want to know what you are saying about them.

Example 5: Use of web analytics tools on library sites

Marshall Breeding undertook a survey of academic and research libraries. Using the Ghostery plug-in for Chrome, all tracking mechanisms detected on the library website, online catalog, or discovery interface were noted. (Breeding, 2016)

  • Google Analytics
  • Ajax search API
  • Google AdSense
  • Google Translate
  • Google Tag Manager
  • DoubleClick (owned by Google)
  • Yahoo Analytics
  • Adobe Omniture Analytics
  • Adobe Tag Manager
  • Adobe TypeKit
  • Facebook Connect
  • Facebook Social Plugin
  • Twitter Button
  • AdThis
  • Piwik Analytics
  • Crazy Egg
  • WebTrends
  • New Relic
  1. Can We extend user protections into the digital space

Yes, but it isn’t necessarily easy or straightforward, and it doesn’t just happen automatically:

–          Negotiating privacy clauses in vendor contracts

–          Choosing vendors who respect privacy

–          Using https:// encryption

–          Using secure forms of authentication (for example, if you are using SIP2, are you sending the requests through an SSH or VPN tunnel/stunnel)

–          Regularly checking your institution’s information security (network penetration testing, using “ethical hackers”)

–          Contractual language requiring vendors to warrant that there is nothing that would allow a third party to access their institutional data.

  1. If so, how

(Lynch, 2017) looks at the ecosystem that has evolved for scholarly journals involving a whole range of players including platform providers, various publishers’ websites, authors, readers, traditional publishers, libraries, third parties, and analytics providers.

“Whenever a third party has access to personally identifiable information, the agreements need to address appropriate restrictions on the use, aggregation, dissemination and sale of that information, particularly information about minors” (Jones, 2014a).

Agreements between libraries and vendors should specify that libraries retain ownership of all data; that the vendor agrees to observe the library’s privacy, data retention, and security policies; and that the vendor agrees to bind any third parties it uses in delivering services to these policies as well.

(Fouty, 1993) says that library staff authorized for any level of access to online patron records should be thoroughly educated in local and federal data privacy laws. She raises the question of enforcing institutional privacy policies and legislation. Fouty says that sanctions for violating rules and regulations governing data privacy should be approved and upheld by the library’s administration, and clearly presented to staff in the strongest terms possible. Staff should be made aware that any deviations from acceptable procedure will be treated as serious violations, subject to discipline or even termination of employment.

  1. Role librarians could/should play regarding privacy
  • To protect
  • To defend
  • Activism
  • To be radical
  • To lobby/advocate
  • To negotiate
  • To educate/train
  • To provide a sanctuary or safe haven for private reflection
  • To participate
  • To debate
  • To be a privacy watchdog or auditor
  • To take on a leadership role

I believe that the information profession needs to have a debate about the role of the librarian in protecting user privacy. Such a debate needs to go back to first principles to ask whether librarians have a role in protecting user privacy, and if so, what form that role should take. (Cooper, 2016) did a survey in which participants were asked their views on the following statement: “Libraries should play a role in educating the general public about issues of personal privacy and data protection”. The overwhelming majority (78.6%) of survey respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, but 15.5% neither agreed nor disagreed with the statement, while 6% of respondents either disagreed or strongly disagreed with it:

Strongly agree 40.5% Agree 38.1% Neither agree nor disagree 15.5% Disagree 2.4% Strongly disagree 3.6%

Even amongst those who do believe that librarians have a role to play in protecting user privacy, there is still the question of quite what that role should be. This could range from a more passive approach, simply protecting the personally identifiable information held about users – through to a more active approach in the form of lobbying and advocacy work; organising cryptoparties etc.

There are a number of potential roles that librarians can and do play. These are not mutually exclusive:

To protect (Brantley, 2015) believes that “Public libraries are among the last protectors of privacy in contemporary society”

(Fortier, Burkell 2015) reinforce the role of protecting user privacy saying that “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.”

To defend (Mattlage, 2015) (p76) considers the role of librarians defending the information rights of users: “Having special obligations to protect information rights means that information professionals must first of all take information rights seriously by defending them against countervailing pressures for more expedient public policies. It is the unique role of information professionals to be last to abandon the defense of these rights, even if this leads others—who do not have these special obligations—to perceive information professionals as unreasonable”.

Activism Speaking of the privacy role of librarians in terms of activism is bound to be controversial. But it is interesting to observe the way in which librarians in America reacted to the repeal of the Federal Communications Commission’s rules requiring ISPs to adopt fair information privacy practices in regards to their customers’ data (Caldwell-Stone and Robinson, 2017). These responses have included pointing people to use of encryption, of VPNs, and of using the Tor browser to enable anonymous web searching.

To be radical It is worth noting that people who identify themselves as being “radical librarians” seem to place a particularly high priority on ethical issues. “If we cannot (or do not) protect the intellectual privacy of our users, then we are failing as professionals” (Clark, 2016)

To lobby / advocate In the United Kingdom, librarians across the whole range of sectors have for many years worked together through the Libraries and Archives Copyright Alliance (LACA) to lobby for fairer copyright laws from a user perspective. I do believe that there is a real need for a similar organisation to lobby government for laws that are more respectful of user privacy, to raise awareness of privacy as an important issue, and to share best practice.

(Lamdan 2015b) “As traditional keepers of information, librarians have innate roles as Internet advocates for their patrons”.

To negotiate An important role for librarians involves vendor management – from the initial selection of vendors, negotiating the right contract terms, through to continuous oversight of the contract once the agreement has been signed.

A key part of that work involves ensuring that the contracts they have with vendors provide adequate protection for user privacy. (Dixon, 2008) “If libraries only chose vendors who had good privacy policies, the industry would have to change its standards in order to obtain library business”

(Magi, 2010) Librarians have a long history of protecting user privacy, but they have done seemingly little to understand or influence the privacy policies of library resource vendors that increasingly collect user information through Web 2.0-style personalization features.

(Caro and Markman, 2016) list a series of questions librarians should be asking of their vendors, covering data breach policy, data encryption, data retention, the ease of use of the vendor’s terms of service, patron privacy, secure connections and advertising networks.

(McMenemy, 2016) says that “We need to be careful of how many of our values we cede to software vendors to manage for us”

To educate/train (Fifarek, 2002) Libraries need to take an active role in educating users about protecting their privacy. Users should be educated as to what their privacy rights are and what privacy protections exist. Additionally, users need to understand that protecting their personal privacy requires them to make choices about what information they are willing to disclose in order to receive services.

Libraries are ideally placed to offer training on how users can protect their privacy (such as using browser addons and other tools; making full use of privacy settings within browsers etc).

(Noh, 2016) The library is the most general and representative organization that can promote digital inclusion. The public library, in particular, is one of the few organizations in the public domain that all citizens can use free of charge. Public libraries are accessible to citizens throughout the nation from all walks of life. As such, they are the ideal environment for studying varying digital levels of ordinary citizens.

(Jones, 2014b) p163 Libraries should seize this opportunity to play a major role in teen entrepreneurship, critical thinking, creativity—and the role of privacy in their digital lives. Libraries are well positioned to educate teens on how their personally identifiable information can be used to compromise their privacy and possibly hurt them at a job interview or other important events in their lives. The very technology that enables them so much creative freedom can also be used against them. With education on how their personal information is collected, and what they can do to protect their privacy, they will learn to make educated decisions and choices about their personal space.

To provide a sanctuary, a safe space or safe haven for private reflection (Johnston, 2000) says that “Public libraries further fulfill an essential social role by providing public space which serves ”as safe havens for private reflection and as meeting places for community functions””

(Sturges, Iliffe and Dearnley, 2001) recognise that “The library, whether public, academic or institutional, is both a communal and a private space: a paradox that has always contained a certain potential for tensions.”

(Campbell and Cowan, 2016) also acknowledge that privacy can have a paradoxical relation to the public sphere. They cite (Keizer, 2012) who suggests that individuals frequently move into the public sphere, not to sacrifice their privacy, but to retain it. Indeed, in an analysis of a court decision that grappled with the question of privacy in public places, Keizer writes of “the number of people whose very act of stepping out the front door represents a “subjective expectation of privacy”—because the public sphere is the only place where they can have a reasonable hope of finding it”.

In Quad/Graphics, Inc. v. S. Adirondack Library System, 174 Misc.2d 291, 664 N.Y.S.2d 225 (N.Y.Sup., 1997) the court noted that a library was “a unique sanctuary of the widest possible spectrum of ideas [and] must protect the confidentiality of its records in order to insure its readers’ right to read anything they wish, free from the fear that someone might see what they read and use this in a way to intimidate them”.

To participate If librarians are to protect the privacy of their users, it is essential that they take part in the formulation of privacy policies. A failure to do so would be an abrogation of their ethical responsibilities.

(Jones 2014) p159 All over the world people are concerned about government surveillance and corporate collection of their personal data. Now is the time for libraries to seize the opportunity to play a major role in this policy arena! Librarians and library associations from all cultures must collaborate in this work, since the concept and application of privacy principles varies from culture to culture

To debate (McMenemy 2016) says that “If we cannot debate important issues such as privacy and freedom of expression within our profession, we will lose our moral authority on them”.

To be a privacy watchdog or auditor (Johnston 2000) “By accepting the existence of new privacy threats within the institution, it becomes possible to see an important new role for librarians. By building on such traditional responsibilities as evaluation of sources, monitoring of information systems, and keeping abreast of new tools or changes in old ones and addressing internal and external information flows, the librarian could become something akin to a privacy watchdog or auditor”

To take on a leadership role (Fernandez, 2010) recommends that librarians take a leadership role in the public debate on privacy: “After determining that libraries should have a presence within a social networking site, they can take a leadership role in promoting awareness and engagement on the issues surrounding information literacy and privacy.”

(Lamdan 2015a) believes, more specifically, that librarians should lead a campaign to urge Internet social media companies to include Privacy by Design principles in their user agreements.

Privacy by design originates from a report on “Privacy enhancing technologies” from the Information & Privacy Commissioner of Ontario, Canada, the Dutch DPA Authority and the Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research in 1995. The foundational principles are:

  • Proactive not reactive; Preventative not remedial
  • Privacy as the default setting
  • Privacy embedded into design
  • Full functionality – positive-sum, not zero-sum
  • End-to-end security – full lifecycle protection
  • Visibility and transparency – keep it open
  • Respect for user privacy – keep it user-centric

https://autoriteitpersoonsgegevens.nl/sites/default/files/downloads/av/av11.pdf (revised edition of “Privacy enhancing technologies: the path to anonymity”, 2000).

(Magi, 2013) says “As a former marketing professional, I know the importance of occupying a unique position in the marketplace—of finding something that sets your organization apart. More than ever, libraries hold a unique and critically important place in the information landscape. I can think of few other information providers that do what libraries do: provide a broad range of information, make it accessible to everyone regardless of means, while embracing the ethical principle that our users’ personal information is not a commodity to be traded or sold. Our commitment to user confidentiality is rare and special, and it’s a characteristic that research tells us is important to people. That means it’s a competitive advantage, in the same way that reliability of its cars has been a competitive advantage for Toyota. I believe it’s essential that we work to preserve that competitive advantage, both because it’s the ethical thing to do, and because it’s a practical way to stay relevant”.

  1. Types of data breaches involving libraries and their suppliers and their causes


In 2011 there was a data breach at Trinity College Dublin. Students were warned that some of their data may have been compromised after a breach at the college’s library. A file containing student and staff names, addresses, ID numbers and email addresses was inadvertently made accessible on the college network. It was there for over a year and a half (August 2009-March 2011)

In 2011 snooping devices (in the form of keystroke loggers) were found on library computers in several public libraries in Cheshire.

During 2015/2016 the British Library withstood a “brute force” attack on its systems over a four day period, in which the attacker attempted to obtain access to customer data. The attack was unsuccessful and no data was lost. (Source: British Library annual report 2015/2016)

Ransomware (On Tuesday 26 January 2016, Lincolnshire County Council was subject to a malicious software (‘malware’) attack on its IT system. The attack led to a shutdown of council IT systems – and this included library comptuers – as the authority investigated the malware’s impact. Eventually, council systems and online services were fully restored after being out of action for almost a week.)

The attack was triggered when an employee clicked on a malicious attachment in an email. It was detected as a result of users being unable to access files on the corporate network. Further technical analysis determined the files were being encrypted by malware which was determined to have been delivered by an email attachment containing a .zip file.


Bloomberg – In 2013 it was reported that for years journalists at Bloomberg News had been using Bloomberg terminals to monitor when subscribers had logged into the service and to find out what types of functions – such as the news wire, corporate bond trades, or an equity index, that they had looked at. The sorts of information that the Bloomberg journalists had access to included background on individual subscribers, when they last logged on, chat information between subscribers and customer services representatives as well as weekly statistics on how often they used a particular function. It was suggested that reporters at Bloomberg News were using a function that tracks how recently a client has logged in as a way of generating story leads about personnel changes. Soon afterwards it was announced that former IBM CEO Sam Palmisano had been appointed as an independent advisor with the task of reviewing and recommending changes on privacy and data policies.

Reed Elsevier – In March 2005 it was reported that Reed Elsevier company LexisNexis had suffered a security breach. This was initially said to relate to a userid and password being used fraudulently to download information on 32,000 individuals. The information accessed included names, addresses, social security and driver’s licence numbers. However, within days, it was reported that the security breach was somewhat larger than first thought. The New York Times said that the figure wasn’t 32,000 but was instead information on 310,000 people. It also reported that the company had found 59 separate instances where unauthorized users may have fraudulently acquired personal identifying information through Seisint, a unit of LexisNexis. Seisint data is used by employers making hiring decisions, landlords choosing tenants and also by debt collectors.

In 2013 it was reported[i] that a number of companies, including LexisNexis and Dun & Bradstreet may have unwittingly aided identity thieves. The story said that the operators of an underground ID theft service had infiltrated some of the biggest providers of social security numbers, dates of birth and other consumer information.

As recently as 15th March 2017 I saw a report that a D&B 52gb database containing about 33.6 m records with very specific information on people from job title thru email address had been exposed.

Adobe (in the Autumn of 2014 there were a number of reports that Adobe Digital Editions was sending back to the Adobe servers in plain (unencrypted) text details including a list of books read

Overdrive / Amazon tie in led to accusations of their library lending program as being ‘anti-user, anti-intellectual freedom, anti-library’ and says that libraries have been ‘screwed‘. Concerns over the data about library users’ borrowing practices being in the hands of a corporation. IN ZDNet, October 21st 2011

This is a useful reminder of the need for caution with regard to any services which require people to synchronise their library accounts with an external service.

Analysing the causes of the data breaches:

  • Software upgrade glitch
  • Ransomware
  • Misconfigured database
  • Insider threat
  • A hacking attack
  • DDOS attacks
  • A laptop that was either lost or stolen
  1. How to minimize the risks
  2. Practical steps. Examples of good practice
  3. Default search engine (on public access terminals set the default search engine to one which respects privacy such as Startpage, Duckduckgo, or Oscobo)
  4. Default browser (use a browser such as Firefox)
  5. HTTPS (see https://letsencrypt.org/ for example)
  6. Vendor management: when negotiating licence agreements, make sure that there are robust provisions covering privacy & confidentiality
  7. Ad blocking software
  8. Organise a cryptoparty
  9. Develop a forum for discussion of privacy issues, sharing best practice, knowledge of tools (this could be a natural extension of a series of privacy training events/cryptoparties)
  10. Create an area on the library website dedicated to privacy issues ( a good example is that of San Jose Public Library, and their site lets you generate a custom privacy toolkit geared towards your own organisation’s online needs)
  11. Include privacy within any digital literacy training offered to your users
  12. Use software to automatically return library pc’s to their native state when a user has finished with the machine
  13. Carry out a cyber security risk management audit (see useful article by Caro and Markman 2016 on the topic)
  14. survey all technologies provided by the library
  15. describe current practices
  16. evaluate existing policies
  17. make recommendations to improve privacy
  18. Where data is housed in a data centre controlled by an external vendor, librarians should ensure they know where it is located, and what certifications the facility has (to ensure it meets industry best practice)
  19. If you are getting rid of equipment such as a photocopier, remember patron privacy. Some copiers (and other types of office equipment) have hard drives capable of storing confidential personal information, and these need to be safely wiped and destroyed.
  20. Do you undertake regular network penetration testing (ethical hackers)/network security checks to mitigate risk of data security breaches? Do this for both internal and external systems
  21. Embedded content: check if your library is leaking catalog searches to Amazon https://go-to-hellman.blogspot.co.uk/2016/12/how-to-check-if-your-library-is-leaking.html
  22. Make sure you are using a secure form of authentication to connect with self-serve units, journals databases, ebook platforms etc. If, for example, you are using SIP2, is it encrypted and if so how. One example of a secure method for authentication would be Open ID
  23. Have you signed up to the Library digital privacy pledge?
  24. Use the NISO patron privacy framework to inform their actions.
  25. Ensure that users’ print jobs can only be retrieved at the printer by using their own library card number.
  26. Monitor security alerts from CERT and install software patches and software updates to defend against attacks
  27. Use a full range of information security defences (firewall, intrusion detection system (IDS), intrusion protection system (IPS), web filtering, antivirus etc)
  28. Library administration might consider having staff members sign a security compliance statement prior to being issued any authorization to access patron records. (Ayre, 2017)

(Ayre, 2017) Limit collection and retention of user information. Only collect the minimum amount of information necessary to provide a service and don’t keep that information any longer than necessary.

(Wohlgemuth, Echizen et al. 2010) Privacy in cloud computing is at the moment simply a promise to be kept by the software service providers. Users are neither able to control the disclosure of personal data to third parties nor to check if the software service providers have followed the agreed-upon privacy policy. Therefore, disclosure of the users‘ data to the software service providers of the cloud raises privacy risks.

Vendors and libraries could partner to reshape the security landscape quickly if this were identified as a priority.

(Lambert, Parker et al. 2015) analyses privacy policies of digital content vendors, and points out that a user’s personal information is no longer solely in the hands of librarians. Cites the case of Adobe dating from 2014 because data was being collected by at least three parties – the library, the service vendor and the e-reader company, even though the library didn’t have a contract directly with the e-reader company. Libraries must work with multiple vendors to negotiate privacy protections for patrons, and they are forced to deal with the privacy policies of entitles with which they have no direct relationship (such as Adobe or Amazon).


Ayre, L.B. (2017) ‘Protecting patron privacy: vendors, libraries, and patrons each have a role to play’, Collaborative Librarianship, 9 (1), .

Brantley, P. (2015) ‘Books and browsers’, Publishers Weekly, 262 (1), .

Breeding, M. (2016) ‘Issues and technologies related to privacy and security’, Library Technology Reports, pp.5-12.

Caldwell-Stone, D. and Robinson, M. (2017) ‘How libraries can respond to the repeal of the FCC privacy rules’, Intellectual freedom blog (Office for Intellectual Freedom of the ALA), (March 31), .

Campbell, D.G. and Cowan, S.R. (2016) ‘The paradox of privacy: revisiting a core library value in an age of big data and linked data’, Library Trends, 64 (3), pp.492-511.

Caro, A. and Markman, C. (2016) ‘Measuring library vendor cyber security: seven easy questions every librarian can ask’, Code4Lib, (32), .

Clark, I. (2016) ‘Why librarians need to act on mass surveillance’, Infoism, (March 15), .

Cooper, A. (2016) Safeguarding what’s personal: privacy and data protection perspectives of Library Association of Ireland members.

Dixon, P. (2008) ‘Ethical issues implicit in library authentication and access management: risks and best practices’, Journal of Library Administration, 47 (3-4), pp.142-162.

Farkas, M. (2007) ‘The blog’, Library journal, (December), pp.40-43.

Fernandez, P. (2010) ‘Privacy and Generation Y: Applying library values to social networking sites’, Community & Junior College Libraries, 16 (2), pp.100-113.

Fifarek, A. (2002) ‘Technology and privacy in the academic library’, Online Information Review, 26 (6), pp.366-374.

Fouty, K.G. (1993) ‘Online patron records and privacy: Service vs. security’, The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 19 (5), pp.289-293.

Johnston, S.D. (2000) ‘Rethinking Privacy in the Public Library’, The International Information & Library Review, 32 (3-4), pp.509-517.

Jones, B. (2014a) ‘ALA protests Adobe data breach’, Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom, 63 (6), pp.155-156.

Jones, B.M. (2014b) ‘It’s complicated: youth, privacy and library ethics’ in Amelie Vallotton Preisig (ed.) Ethical dilemmas in the information society: codes of ethics for librarians and archivists. pp. 157-166.

Keizer, G. (2012) Privacy. Picador.

Lynch, C. (2017) ‘The rise of reading analytics and the emerging calculus of reader privacy in the digital world’, First Monday, 22 (4 (April 3rd)), .

Magi, T.J. (2010) ‘A content analysis of library vendor privacy policies: Do they meet our standards?’, College & Research Libraries, 71 (3), pp.254-272.

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[i] Goodin, Dan (2013) How LexisNexis and others may have unwittingly aided identity thieves IN Ars Technica September 25th 2013