Deepening the Conversation

thinking about questions of authority, technology, learning, and 2.0 in academic libraries

finding the knots: confidentiality, 2.0, library responsibility


We had a brown bag debrief on Internet Librarian from our colleagues who attended, and the thing spun off in many directions, one of which (at least!) was my fault and led into something I keep forgetting I really want to write about. This is meant mainly to remind me of that fact, but I fear it will digress into more.

Something I think about whenever I see a list of Cool 2.0 Free Tools You Can Implement At Your Library is privacy (or more accurately, confidentiality). Why are they free? Who’s getting what? Does the user retain ownership of their information? Is the library facilitating the sale or use of users’ information when offering this tool?

I *only* think about this when I see others’ implementations or lists of tools. I almost never think about it when I myself am doing something where I ought to think about it. Like, perhaps, when adding applications to my facebook….

I used to think about it as regards GMail, but I forget to worry about that now that I use it a lot — and that’s the poison pill, right? Gateway drug, whatever. Google knows my searches. Knows my email (work and personal and retail) . Has access to some of my work (docs and spreadsheets). Knows what some friends and I talk about (GTalk). It wants to make a cell phone, which will give it all my friends cell phone numbers and email addresses, and has built in 911 GPS location markers. And now, it wants to marry DoubleClick and sell what it knows for lots and lots of money which will primarily annoy me and not make me any money at all! And I worry about it less than I ought to because they made my life easier in some ways.

Users ought to worry about this stuff but the information world has gone completely mad and out of control and is being monetized and ramified in all sorts of ways they can’t even begin to understand when they take their first gateway drug (which might be a DisneyPhone designed to allow their parents to track their every movement and thus desensitize them further!)

So, librarians used to have this bill of rights to guide library services which states

IV. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

Which I read to mean that libraries and librarians work to support the statement that all individuals are free to read whatever they choose and that such reading is nobody’s business but their own. Essentially, that libraries and librarians are (or should be) committed to protecting patron privacy and confidentiality (two similar but not identical goals).

So, questions to ponder for later parsing:

  1. Are libraries still committed to this?
  2. Should we care that our patrons (especially academic library patrons, since that’s my ball of string) don’t care about their own privacy or confidentiality? Should their naiveté trump our responsibilities?
  3. Does our desire to do more for our patrons hold hands with their naiveté to further sexy goals, or is it OK to not let them know what we’re doing (or that we don’t know!)?
  4. Does anyone know how much info we’re giving away though Facebook? or other username/password identity sites?
  5. Is it still within our power to prevent Minority Report from becoming reality?

Obviously, still is still a big knotty thing in my head. Hopefully, by the end of break I can work this into some articulate positions and statements.

Until then, what are your thoughts? Do user wants for customized interfaces and mashable bits trump library responsibility for protecting privacy and freedom to read? Is that an outdated responsibility? Other thoughts?


2 thoughts on “finding the knots: confidentiality, 2.0, library responsibility

  1. I was going to post my response as a comment, but it got long, so I moved it to my own blog:

  2. Pingback: Some Thoughts on Privacy 2.0

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