Librarians Remain Concerned About Privacy Rights

More than 95 percent of librarians who responded to a recent survey said that “government agencies and businesses shouldn’t share personal information with third parties without authorization and should only be used for a specific purpose,” according to the preliminary findings of a study released by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom

As the Cyber Information Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) awaits debate in the Senate, an overwhelming majority of librarians remain concerned about privacy rights and individuals’ desire to protect and control access to their personal information, according to the preliminary findings of a study released by the American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom. More than 95 percent of librarians who responded to the survey said that “government agencies and businesses shouldn’t share personal information with third parties without authorization and should only be used for a specific purpose,” according to a recent press announcement from ALA. Similarly, nearly 100 percent of respondents agreed that “Libraries should never share personal information, circulation records or Internet use records with third parties unless it has been authorized by the individual or by a court of law,” and nearly 80 percent felt that libraries should play a role in educating the public about privacy issues. Nearly a quarter of respondents may think that there is more to be done. Seventy-six percent of the responding librarians said that they felt that libraries were doing everything possible to prevent unauthorized access to the personal information and circulation records of the individuals they serve. Only 13 percent said that their library had hosted an information session, lecture, or seminar addressing privacy and surveillance for their patrons, and only 57 percent felt that their libraries were effectively communicating their own privacy policies and protections to patrons. And, only 51 percent of the librarians said that their libraries had trained their staff to deal with requests for user records, the release notes. The survey results were very similar to the preceding ALA OIF study on privacy in 2008. However, the data indicated a “slight decline” in the level of concern over privacy. “For example, in both surveys, the vast majority (95 percent in 2008, 90 percent in 2012) of respondents expressed concern that ‘companies are collecting too much personal information about me and other individuals.’  However those who ‘strongly’ agreed [with that statement] dropped from 70 percent in 2008 to only 54 percent in 2012,” the May 1 release notes. Funded by a grant from the Open Society Foundations, these preliminary results were released as part of ALA’s Choose Privacy Week 2012, which was themed “Freedom from Surveillance.”

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