New York Library Association. - The eBulletin

Are You Ready to Take the Digital Privacy Pledge?

Submitted by Jennifer Bollerman, President IFRT and Acting NYLA IFC Chair

The American Library Association affirms that rights of privacy are necessary for intellectual freedom and are fundamental to the ethics and practice of librarianship.Privacy: An Interpretation of the Library Bill of Rights

As most of you know, our right to open inquiry without having the subject of one’s interest examined or scrutinized by others is a key component of intellectual freedom, but sometimes we forget that privacy, particularly in the digital world, is also of ethical importance to our profession. Privacy was the focus of the Resolution for Restoring Civil Liberties and Opposing Mass Surveillance put forward by the Office of Intellectual Freedom’s Privacy Subcommittee and approved by the ALA Council at this year’s Midwinter Meeting and it also centered prominently in a recent American Libraries article written by James LaRue, new Director of ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom. The article was written in support of the Library Freedom Project’s Digital Privacy Pledge. If you were lucky enough to see Alison Macrena of the Library Freedom Project at this past NYLA convention, you know that this admirable group:

is a partnership among librarians, technologists, attorneys, and privacy advocates which aims to make real the promise of intellectual freedom in libraries. By teaching librarians about surveillance threats, privacy rights and responsibilities, and digital tools to stop surveillance, we hope to create a privacy-centric paradigm shift in libraries and the local communities they serve.

Their Digital Privacy Pledge focuses on libraries adopting HTTPS. To make this process easier, they are working with the Let’s Encrypt initiative of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Their new certificate infrastructure will remove much of the cost and technical difficulties involved in HTTPS implementation.

If we believe in Article 3 of the American Library Association Code of Ethics, which states that, “ We protect each library user's right to privacy and confidentiality with respect to information sought or received and resources consulted, borrowed, acquired or transmitted,” then preserving our patron’s privacy and preventing unauthorized use of their data is something that we are ethically obligated to do. And, at the very least, we should stop using the internet protocol that lets people eavesdrop on library patrons.

Do you believe in privacy?  Here’s what can you do.

  1. Sign the Digital Privacy Pledge
  2. Celebrate Choose Privacy Week (May 1-7). This year’s topic is promoting respect for minors’ and students’ privacy rights.  
  3. Before you enter into a vendor agreement, review the Library Privacy Guidelines for E-book Lending and Digital Content Vendors