Types of friction determining level of privacy (@floridi ontological friction)


Related to or limited by time




Walls (eg. Are they soundproof)

Doors (locked/open)

Partitions (thickness/thinness)

Materials used (eg glass)


Physical separation










Search visibility

Unprotected access

Identification (pseudonyms/anonymization)


Right to be forgotten

Difficulty of collecting

In physical library v digital library

Difficulty of correlating/aggregating

Burdensome to obtain

Deliberate use of misleading information


Training & awareness

Users & librarians technical knowledge to protect privacy

Advising on websites to use (based on behavioural tracking)

Knowledge of library procedures

Knowledge of the law

Awareness as empowerment


Information behaviour

Self censorship

Conforming to expectations (because of chilling effect)

Privacy calculus



Information type

Transmission principle (consent, coerced, stolen, buying, selling, confidentiality, stewardship, acting under the authority of a court with a warrant, and national security)

Who is the sender

Who is the recipient

Ethical concerns



Law: international, supra-national, national, local (in federal systems), case law

Norms: market norms, social norms, moral/non-moral norms, cultural norms

Self-regulation: terms & conditions, contracts, ethical codes, guidelines, standards

Codified library policies and practices



Privacy enhancing technologies

Privacy invasive technologies

Differential privacy

Privacy by design


Examples of temporal friction

  • Patron borrowing records anonymised once items have been returned
  • Library has CCTV cameras in place in all the public areas, but automatically wipes the tapes after 28 days
  • Paper based records for computer bookings destroyed at the end of each week
  • Transactional logs generated by access control software and network authentication anonymized/destroyed when no longer needed


Examples of spatial friction

  • Try to avoid indiscreet reference interviews (voice level, private space)
  • Reserved items placed in an open area of the library. The books don’t have any paper wrapped around them to disguise their contents, making it easy to spot titles that are racy, on controversial topics, or which the user would be embarrassed for others to know they had asked for. And the users’ complete surname visible on a piece of paper placed inside the book
  • Berwick’s new-look library has been criticised for the lack of privacy it offers customers coming in to discuss sensitive issues. The building now houses a range of services offered by Northumberland County Council. It means library, registration, tourism and customer service facilities are housed in the same place. However, concerns have been raised that potentially sensitive matters, such as conversations about housing benefits and council tax and even personal details, could easily be overheard. There is a private area for customers but it is understood it does not have computer access (http://www.berwick-advertiser.co.uk/news/privacy-concern-raised-following-library-revamp-1-4199427)